Tour de France: Andy Schleck Closes in on Yellow Jersey

Andy Schleck of Leopard Trek Team moved within 15 seconds of the Tour de France yellow jersey after leaving his main rivals gasping for air in the Alps with a gutsy win on Thursday’s 18th Stage.

Schleck, the runner-up in the last two editions of cycling’s top event, made his move on the second of three grueling climbs, the Col d’Izoard, in the 200.5-kilometer stage from Pinerolo to Galibier Serre-Chevalier. The 26-year-old from Luxembourg left behind main rivals Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso, and current yellow jersey holder Thomas Voeckler, who saw his lead dwindle as he failed to keep up with the attacking Schleck. Andy Schleck eventually finished 2 minutes and 7 seconds ahead of his brother, Frank, and 2:15 from Evans. Voeckler came in fifth 2:21 from Andy Schleck, and three seconds from fourth-placer Basso.

Defending champion Alberto Contador faded in the stage by finishing only 15th, 3:50 behind Schleck. After the race, Contador admitted that his chance for a fourth Tour de France overall championship was already over. “Victory is impossible now,” said the Spaniard, who is now 4:44 behind overall with three stages left.

Overall, Voeckler and Andy Schleck are followed by Frank Schleck and Evans, with Damiano Cunego rounding out the top five.