Team CSC Saxo Bank's Fränk Schleck fulfilled a childhood dream of his, when he took the Yellow Jersey on Sunday after the 15th stage of Tour de France!
The Danish team was aggressive from the word go and all team members were used to attack during the last 40 of the 183-kilometer route from Digne-les-Bains to Prato Nevoso.
At the front it quickly became clear to all that a break of four would be impossible to catch and Simon Gerrans (Crédit Agricole) took the victory with four minutes down to the favorite's group. But behind the break Team CSC Saxo Bank was stepping up the game somewhat.
At first it was Nicki Sørensen and Stuart O'Grady, who took to the front with 40 kilometers left of the stage hereby increasing the pace considerably. Then it was Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Fabian Cancellara and Jens Voigt's turn, while Volodymir Gustov stayed ready to line up the team captains.
When the peloton reached the finish line in Prato Nevoso Andy Schleck got down to business and provoked a serious separation so only 10 or 12 riders were left at the front. The younger Schleck brother was unstoppable and several times tried to separate the group even further to help the Team CSC Saxo Bank captains.
A couple of the other riders in the favorite's group also tried to stir things up a bit - Carlos Sastre attacked a couple of times - and at one point Denis Menchov (Rabobank) had a gap as well. But just as Andy Schleck closed this gap the Russian crashed in a sharp turn. The other favorites chose to wait for Menchov and when the situation was neutralized Andy went back to work.
Four kilometers from the finish Sastre, Menchov and Kohl escaped and managed to gain about 40 seconds on the others in the group, where Fränk Schleck attacked Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) taking nine seconds from the Australian enabling the older Schleck brother to take the Yellow Jersey.
Sastre is still in sixth place overall, but there is only 49 seconds between the six riders at the top of the GC ahead of the two toughest Alp-stages on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"It's a fantastic feeling to put on the Yellow Jersey. The team was really strong today and they all deserve this jersey! Andy was the strongest rider in the peloton - he made sure all the other favorites stayed in the red zone, which enabled Carlos and me to launch our attacks. Carlos was very strong also and attacked at just the right moment so we gained valuable time on several fronts," said an extremely happy Fränk Schleck after the stage.
"It's a true joy to work for this team. We're all willing to sacrifice ourselves for each other and today everyone did their very best for Fränk and me. They really sacrificed themselves for us without complaining and then it was up to us to follow through. When I thought the time was right I tried my best and I'm happy we managed to gain some time on almost all our rivals and it's perfect with Fränk in the lead now - like the icing on the cake," said Carlos Sastre after the stage.
Photo by CorVos