Tour de France stage 18: clash of gladiators

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I sat down and didn’t move during the time it took Andy Schleck to take out stage 18 of the Tour de France. What an awesome 198.4 kilometres of first-class cycling from Pinerolo to Galibier – Serre Chevalier.

It was a stage made for the gladiators and the strongest and bravest of them all triumphed.

Andy Schleck made a courageous move when he took off from the peloton without support, but that didn’t seem to faze him as he had a teammate ahead and was gaining time back from the yellow jersey and Cadel Evans.

When Schleck caught his teammate Maxine Monfort it was just the start of one of the great stage rides in Tour de France history as he started to apply more and more pressure to the breakaway.

Back in the peloton it was a calm bunch of riders who thought that Andy had gone too early – oh how they were about to be proved wrong.

Stage 18 saw strategy and hard work pay off; it had front row seats to the guts and determination shown from Thomas Voeckler and Cadel Evans; and it was witness to the fall of Alberto Contador, gone from contention.

The one rider who has yet to really exert his power is the other Schleck – Frank. Frank enjoyed the French mountains today; he sat in the peloton smiling as his brother powered on ahead.

When Evans started to peel back some time on Andy in the last 15kms, Frank sat in the saddle near the rear waiting for the right time to make his move. That move came in the last kilometre, and he now is eyeing off the podium in France, and maybe, just maybe, the yellow jersey from his brother and team leader.

Tomorrow we are set for another clash of the titans; what will the efforts delivered do to these great athletes? In my opinion it is set for Frank Schleck to assert his skills, but then Cadel will be hard to hold out in the time trial.

Stay turned – the Tour de France is just heating up.

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