As advertised, the Pyrenees began the selection of the GC contenders on Stage 12 of the Tour de France. The remaining contenders for the overall yellow jersey into Paris are Leopard Trek's Andy Schleck, BMC's Cadel Evans, Liquigas's Ivan Basso, and Saxo Bank's Alberto Contador.
Frank Schleck is also in the mix and actually gained 20 seconds on his rivals after at least four attacks on the climb to Luz Ardiden. However, Frank was likely just attacking on behalf of his brother Andy, in order to tire out his rivals. It's unclear what Frank's Tour ambitions are.
Gone from contention are RadioShack pair Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer and HTC pair Peter Velits and Tony Martin. All of them faltered on the final climb, though Kloden was injured in a small crash earlier in the race.
Also gone from contention is American Christian Vande Velde of Team Garmin. However his teammate Tom Danielson, also an American, performed admirably and is now sitting in 9th place in the GC.
Euskataltel's Samuel Sanchez won the stage and roared back into contention, less than 3 minutes back from the other contenders.
Lampre's Damiano Cunego, Ag2r's Nicolas Roche, and Omega Pharma Lotto's Phillipe Gilbert still have an outside chance, but all faltered on the final climb. Cunego was able to keep up until the final few kilometers.
Though Contador is still a contender, he lost a precious 13 seconds more to his rivals and now sits 1:54 behind Evans. Contador faltered on the final kilometers trying to keep up with Evans, Basso, and Andy Schleck.
Among the contenders Basso looked the strongest going up the final climb, leading most of the way since he had a teammate with him.
Andy Schleck looked a bit winded during the first part of the final climb, but kept up at the end. Andy is probably in the best position of all the contenders, since he can freely send his brother Frank to attack any climb, forcing rivals to respond, and allowing Andy to launch his own vicious attack at an opportune time.
Despite the intense battle of GC contenders, the most impressive performance of the day was done by Thomas Voeckler of Team Europcar.
Voeckler maintained his yellow jersey by gritting his teeth and staying with the contenders most of the way up the climb, only losing a handful of seconds. The Frenchman kept his yellow jersey on Bastille Day, the French version of Independence Day.
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Results: Top 25 General Classification after Stage 12
1. Thomas Voeckler, Team Europcar, in 51:54:44″
2. Frank Schleck, Team Leopard-Trek, in 01:49
3. Cadel Evans, Bmc Racing Team, at 02:06
4. Andy Schleck, Team Leopard-Trek, at 02:17
5. Ivan Basso, Liquigas-Cannondale, at 03:16
6. Damiano Cunego, Lampre - Isd, at 03:22
7. Alberto Contador, Saxo Bank Sungard, at 04:00
8. Samuel Sanchez, Euskaltel - Euskadi, at 04:11
9. Tom Danielson, Team Garmin - Cervelo, at 04:35
10. Nicolas Roche, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 04:57
11. Kevin De Weert, Quick Step Cycling Team, at 05:07
12. Philippe Gilbert, Omega Pharma - Lotto, at 05:24
13. Arnold Jeannesson, Fdj, at 05:50
14. Peter Velits, Htc - Highroad, at 06:03
15. Haimar Zubeldia, Team Radioshack, at 07:17
16. Rein Taaramae, Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne, at 07:27
17. Levi Leipheimer, Team Radioshack, at 07:51
18. Rigoberto Uran, Sky Procycling, at 07:55
19. Jean-christophe Peraud, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 08:20
20. Sandy Casar, Fdj, at 08:47
21. Jerome Coppel, Saur-Sojasun, at 08:51
22. Vladimir Karpets, Katusha Team, at 09:12
23. Pierre Rolland, Team Europcar, at 09:20
24. Andreas Kloden, Team Radioshack, at 10:19
25. Geraint Thomas, Sky Procycling, at 10:21