Tour de France 2010: Contador Chops Off Schleck Lead

Defending champion Alberto Contador finished second in the 12th stage of the Tour de France on Friday, narrowing the gap between him and current yellow jersey holder Andy Schleck in their battle for the overall title.

Contador joined fellow Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez in a two-man sprint towards the finish line, leaving behind Schleck and the rest of the breakaway group in the final climb of the 131-mile Bourg-de-Peage to Mende stage. Rodriguez eventually won the stage, but Contador gained ten seconds off Schleck in the general classification standings. Contador’s Astana teammate Alexandre Vinokourov came in four seconds later, ahead of a five-man group that included Schleck.

Meanwhile, a day after the expulsion of HTC Columbia’s Mark Renshaw due to unsportsmanlike conduct, the Tour lost another rider as sprinter Tyler Farrar withdrew due to injuries suffered in the previous stages.

It will be sprinters’ day on Saturday’s 13th stage as the 196-kilometer Rodez to Revel route does not have the same difficult climbs featured in the 12th stage. However, the 13th stage is the last of the easy routes before the Tour enters its most crucial stages next week.