Stage 14-168.5 km
Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille
No one followed the script today. This was supposed to be the decisive stage in the Pyrénées. The climbs that would separate the wheat from chaff. The crashes and upsets would finally give way on the steep climbs to the unadulterated victory of only the strongest of men. But it was twenty-six year old Belgian winning his first professional race that crossed the finish in Plateau De Bielle. The steep finish also left individual standings largely untouched.
Heroes standing 1k from the finish watched in astonishment as a solo Jelle Vanendert climbed through the crowds. They blinked in disbelief as if the heat and night spent camping on the plateau had transformed Andy Schleck into a young Belgian named Jelle in their sun-struck brains. But an Omega Pharma-Lotto jersey and the sight of the lock-horned Yellow Jersey group further down the hill confirmed the young upstart’s victory.
The yellow jersey group had a desperate, gaunt-eyed look today. Andy & Frank swung back and forth more like they were pacing than stalking their pray. Thomas Voeckler, imbued with the propulsive force of the Maillot Jaune, incessantly matched every impotent attack from Andy and company. Schleck was left waiting as the kilometers ticked down (or very steeply up) for his moment to as one commentator put it to ”insist his efforts”. This moment never came for Andy Schleck. Alberto didn’t crack. Cadel didn’t let up. Samuel took half a minute back. And Andy could only snatch a few seconds.