Andy Schleck. Good times on Galibier.

Andy Schleck flies up Galibier.

Andy Schleck went up the famed Galibier with a smile on his face.

Not a grimace like Ivan Basso or the clenched teeth and hard jaw of Cadel Evans or the hors category suffering on the face of Alberto Contador or Thomas Voeckler.

Despite the 23 kilometers of brutal climbing and gradients up to 9%, Andy Schleck was grinning, his eyes relaxed, his pedal stroke smooth and relentless. This Galibier was a piece of cake.

He was winning the Tour de France and nothing feels better than that. He was making history, dropping everyone, clocking two minutes, then three, then four.

Alberto Contador, his legs heavy from the Giro, was blowing up, drops from the chase group, tour over and done — he can turn his attention to his August legal case before the Court for Arbitration in Sport.

Fellow Spaniard Samuel Sanchez can’t handle the pace and fades. Euskatel Euska-dead. Ivan Basso does nothing but ride his tempo so he doesn’t explode like Mount Etna. The courageous Frenchman Thomas Voeckler latches on to Cadel Evans; wheel hoping that Evans might carry him up the mountain.

Nobody had the legs or courage or force of will to attempt to chase down Schleck except one man: Cadel Evans. The Aussie kept looking for help but got zilch. He dragged them all forward, the only other rider with enough strength to even stabilize the gap.

Schleck dances up ahead on his own and the roars from the crowd were huge. We were eight kilometers down and not a single spectator was rooting for anyone but Andy. The French love him like an irrepressible and emaciated puppy dog. He’s sweet, he’s fun, he pumps out serious wattage on serious climbs.

Slowly Evans claws back time, 10 seconds here, ten second there, but he’s running out of mountain. Andy Schleck has blown the Tour de France apart and made it a two man race. At 57 seconds behind, only Evans is left to mount any serious challenge — unless you’re counting Andy’s brother Frank.

Leopard Trek gets the big win and the grin. Gone are the snide remarks about Schleck’s questionable bike handling skills on a wet, technical descent. Gone the whispers about not taking the Tour seriously enough or fishing too much, or partying too hard. Gone the loose talk about him not having a killer instinct, being a sucker for Alberto Contador’s fake friendship.

That big smile on his said plenty of things toady on the Galibier. Mostly, it said I will win the 2011 Tour de France and do it my way — riding hard and having a really good time.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

9 Responses to “Andy Schleck. Good times on Galibier.”

  1. Unless Andy comes up with another 2 minute win tomorrow, it will only be a 2-man race … between Evans and Voeckler since Andy`s time-trialing skills are known to be sub-par…

  2. Matt, you're obviously day dreaming. Andy will most probably not win this race. Unless he has improved his TT skills secretly in past months and presents himself capable of keeping Cadel in check on Saturday.

  3. It was a spectacular stage, but so sad to see Evans isolated in the mountains…again. Last night, Evans singlehandedly won a yellow jersey for Voeckler and a second place for Franck Schleck and the only thing he got for himself was to lose Contador (which also benefited Voeckler and Schleck anyway). Evans was clearly one of the two strongest riders on the hill, and he actually lost ground rather than gaining it. To see Franck Schleck overtake him with 50 to go after Evans had dragged him and his ten mates up the mountain for the previous twenty minutes was pretty galling.

  4. I'm with Mark, I really felt for Evans, though really he didn't have much choice. Perhaps he'll have enough to blow the top off the TT, but can't imagine all of them won't be completely gassed after tomorrow.

    However, I'm also with the French and applaud Andy's show of strength. For the first time he didn't look back, just ahead. Seemed he grew a little bit and that was nice to see. He even said later, "No guts, no glory." like it was starting to make sense to him.

    • Yup, I'm with you Jennifer. Evans works so hard and gets so little help. AT the same time, everybody wants Schleck to win — you should hear the thunderous cheers for Andy in the mountains. And yes, as an old school Fench major, I'm happy when the home riders win big — like Rolland today. Matt

  5. ugghh, I'm so disappointed there are so many Queen Cadel fans out there, and outside of Australia too! What is there to like about that man? Have you not seen his freakshow diva antics?

    Don't get me wrong, he "deserves" this year's Tour as he's played an incredibly intelligent, patient, & strong Tour but to actually feel sorry for him, or hope he wins?!

    Dude's a freakshow – it's like hoping Buffalo Bill gets another corpse to complete his mannequin (Silence of the Lambs reference…a stretch, I know).

    I'm not a Frandy Schleck fan, it's just a character thing. I don't want to dry-heave when I see the wombat look-alike sip champagne on Sunday & actually talk to the cameras afterwards in Paris. Nooooooo! Please reconsider your adoration of this thing. Thank you,

    -JPL

    • I was torn between the more likeable and approachable and funny Andy and the hardworking and genuine Evans. Believe me, I thing he's a thoughtful guy but not that quotable. Everybody on the mountains wanted Andy to win. Still, you have to respect Evans for winning the hard way and being tough and aggressive when nobody else wanted to work and close that gap on the Galibier. Matt