by Ryland James
AUBENAS, France, July 24, 2009 (AFP) – Second-placed Andy Schleck says only a disaster on Mount Ventoux for yellow yersey holder Alberto Contador will give him any chance of winning the Tour de France.
With just two stages left, 24-year-old Schleck is 4min 11sec behind Contador with his teammate Lance Armstrong in third and determined to finish second behind Spain’s 2007 Tour winner.
But Saxo Bank leader Schleck says he will do everything he can to take time off Contador on Saturday’s penultimate stage from Montelimar which finishes after the fierce 21.1km climb up Mont Ventoux.
“There is always a chance something will happen, but he will have to have a really bad day to lose four minutes. We will try and we will see,” said Schleck.
Contador, who showed his class on the two previous summit finishes on the race winning one, at Verbier in Switzerland, claims he will tackle Mont Ventoux in a conservative fashion to defend his yellow jersey.
And he added he will do what he can to guarantee team-mate and seven-times Tour winner Armstrong a place on the podium.
“On the Ventoux, the number one priority will be to protect my yellow jersey, so I am going to race conservatively,” said the Spaniard.
“But if the opportunity comes up, I will also help my team – Lance for example, to improve his place in the overall standings.
“That I can do no problem.”
Meanwhile, with his brother Frank in sixth at 5:59, Andy Schleck said there is still a chance both brothers could finish on the podium and they will take the fight to Armstrong, who is only slightly ahead at 5:21.
“The goal is to have two on the podium in Paris and then if we can pull that off, we will be pretty happy,” said Andy Schleck.
Of all the mountain climbs on the Tour de France, Schleck says the climb up Mount Ventoux – which infamously claimed the life of British rider Tommy Simpson in 1967 – is the hardest of all to scale.
“At the beginning you have the steepness and then the wind really kicks in with six kilometres to go,” said the Luxemburger.
“You have the heat, you have the steepness and on top of that you have the wind, the mistral that blows into your face.
“It’s the hardest one for sure – the Alp d’Huez is a piece of cake compared to the Ventoux.”