Luz Ardiden: Spain experienced mixed emotions on the first Tour de France stage in the Pyrenees as Samuel Sanchez won in Luz-Ardiden but Alberto Contador showed unexpected signs of weakness.
Olympic champion Sanchez made his move on the last of three climbs, finishing ahead of his breakaway companion Jelle Vanendert of Belgium.
But the real battle between the favourites for Tour victory was raging behind and only really started in the last four kilometres of the 211-km ride from Cugnaux when Luxembourg`s Frank Schleck attacked.
The oldest of the two Schleck brothers, fifth overall in 2008 and 2009, struck once, twice and his third surge finally paid off, allowing him to finish third on the line, 10 seconds behind the leading two.
But, above all, his final strike exposed Contador`s current limits.
Hampered by the knee injury which has troubled him for the past week, the three-times Tour champion reacted to Schleck`s first two moves but stayed put on the third.
In the final kilometre, Contador was again dropped by the other leading players, Italy`s Ivan Basso, Australia`s Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck.
While he only conceded 23 seconds to Franck Schleck and 13 to the other three, the Spaniard probably lost more confidence than time in the first major test in this year`s race and he now lies some two minutes behind his most serious rivals.
"I was not able to deliver as much as I would have loved to, but I`m still satisfied by this result," Contador told reporters.
"It was a special day because I was still recovering from those crashes. But I will be getting better and better day by day," he added.