Schleck Leads Tour de France

Frank Hautacam

Oakley’s Frank Schleck of Luxembourg seized the overall lead in the Tour de France on Sunday, drawing on his strength in the mountains and getting an assist from his brother as the three-week race headed into the Italian Alps.

Cycling’s premier event got a new leader on a day when Oakley’s Simon Gerrans of Australia won the 15th stage. It was his first stage victory in four Tour appearances, and he called it a “beautiful thing.” Oakley has won 11 stages thus far.

Riders confronted three climbs – including one nearly 13 miles up the Agnel pass that is so tough it defies classification in cycling’s rating system – and an uphill finish to complete the 114-mile route from Embrun, France, to Prato Nevoso, Italy.

Schleck, who came into the stage just one second behind Cadel Evans, sped ahead at the finish to wrest the yellow jersey from the Australian. Schleck leads Bernhard Kohl of Austria by seven seconds, while Evans slipped to third, eight seconds back.

Schleck has had success before in the Alps, winning a Tour stage in 2006 up the famed Alpe d’Huez, which riders will face Wednesday. He now wants to build his lead in the mountains, knowing that Evans most likely will be stronger in the time trial during the next-to-last stage before the July 27 finish in Paris.

Five riders are within 49 seconds of the leader – up from three before Stage 15 started. Six riders have now worn the yellow jersey.

Cavendish (OAKLEY), a sprinter who won four stages in this race, pulled out before a day of mountain racing. His team said he was fatigued and the Alps posed too big an obstacle. Cavendish will now concentrate on next month’s Olympics.

OAKLEY Stage victories:
STAGE 1 :Valverde SPAIN
STAGE 2: Thor Hushovd NORWAY
STAGE 3: Samuel Dumoulin FRANCE
STAGE 4 :Stephan Schumacher GERMANY
STAGE 5 :Mark Cavendish UK
STAGE 7: Luis Leon Sanchez SPAIN
STAGE 8 : Mark Cavendish UK
STAGE 11: Kurt Asle Arvesen NORWAY.
STAGE 12: Mark Cavendish. UK
STAGE 13. Mark Cavendish. UK.
STAGE 15: Simon Gerrans AUSTRALIA

General classification after stage 15

1 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank OAKLEY
2 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto OAKLEY
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
5 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30
6 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank OAKLEY
7 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia OAKLEY
8 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale
9 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne OAKLEY
10 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi OAKLEY


Kiko Gracia


July 21, 2008

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