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Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Tuesday, 22 July 2008 16:22 UK

Schleck retains slender Tour lead

Frank Schleck
Schleck finished in the same group as Cadel Evans and Bernhard Kohl

Tour de France leader Frank Schleck retained his yellow jersey after a gruelling mountain stage in the Alps.

Cyril Dessel won the 157km stage from Cuneo in Italy to Jausiers in France, which included a 2,802m climb to the summit of the Col de la Bonnette.

Schleck finished in the same group as two of his main rivals Bernhard Kohl and Cadel Evans but another contender, Denis Menchov, lost valuable time.

Britain's David Millar finished 144th, more than 30 minutes back.

With Schleck one of several leading riders needing to open up an advantage on Evans before Saturday's time trial - a discipline he excels at - this was expected to be another exciting stage of attack and counter-attack.

Schleck's CSC team were always at the front end at the main peloton and were expected to up the ante on the big climbs of the day.

But in the end there was little aggression between the men chasing yellow and Schleck, Kohl and Evans came home in the same time as Carlos Sastre and Alejandro Valverde.

And, after 16 stages, Schleck remains seven seconds clear of Kohl, with Evans another second back.

"It was hard today, I wasn't able to attack," Scheck said. "I think everybody was pushing to the limit.

"The Tour cannot be won in a day but it can be lost in a day. We are going to try to make our rivals lose the tour on Wednesday."

Menchov and Vandevelde will agree with Schleck's analysis after losing ground on the leader.

Menchov finished 35 seconds behind the Luxembourger and is one minute and 13 seconds behind him overall, while Vandevelde, who lost two-and-a half-minutes, is now three minutes and 15 seconds back.

Vandevelde ran out of gas coming up the Col de la Bonnette but Menchov, frustratingly, lost time on the descent to the finish after a strong ascent.

The Russian was not the only man to suffer after looking good at the summit.

BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray
South Africa's John-Lee Augustyn was the first man to reach the top of Bonette, which is the highest road pass in Europe, but misjudged a hairpin on his way down and slid off his bike and down the mountain.

He left his bike down the slope as he clambered to safety and was forced to wait for a replacement, eventually finishing in 35th place, almost five-and-a-half minutes behind Dessel.

Germany's Stefan Schumacher, who wore yellow for two stages earlier in this year's Tour, had set the early pace as the race left Cuneo and crossed the border back into France before the first major climb of the day - the 2,351m Col de la Lombarde.

Schumacher was out on his own for almost two hours in total, climbing Lombarde first and getting agonisingly close to the top of Bonnette before being caught.

Of the riders who followed Augustyn over the top, four men - Dessel, Sandy Casar, David Arroyo and Yaroslav Popovych - broke away in the race downhill to the finish.

I think the big battle will be on the Alpe d'Huez, but after the Galibier and the Croix de Fer (climbs), if you're suffering on the Alpe d'Huez you can really lose a few minutes.

CSC team manager Bjarne Riis

Popovych attempted to sprint for the line at the end but, with 800m to go, he was reeled in by Dessel who ended up finishing well clear for the first Tour stage win of his career.

The Tour's final alpine stage this year is on Wednesday and more is expected from Schleck and his CSC team then.

The peloton will tackle two unclassified climbs before the 14km climb to the summit finish of L'Alpe d'Huez.

CSC's team manager Bjarne Riis said windy conditions at the top of Bonnette had scuppered their plans to attack Evans on Tuesday but he promised that they would be making the most of the mountains on Wednesday.

"It was quite windy, too much to attack, and that was our biggest problem," Riis said. "We weren't able to attack and make the difference.

"Wednesday will suit us better. I think the big battle will be on the Alpe d'Huez, but after the Galibier and the Croix de Fer (climbs), if you're suffering on the Alpe d'Huez you can really lose a few minutes.

"If you go too deep today, you pay for it tomorrow. Everybody suffered a lot today, everybody made a lot of sacrifices and some will pay for that in their legs tomorrow. But hopefully not us."

Stage 16 results, Cuneo to Jausiers (157km):

1. Cyril Dessel (France, AG2R) 4hrs 31min, 27sec
2. Sandy Casar (France, Francaise des Jeux) same time
3. David Arroyo (Spain, Caisse d'Epargne) same time
4. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine, Silence-Lotto) +3sec
5. George Hincapie (United States, Columbia) +24sec
6. Nicolas Portal (France, Caisse d'Epargne) same time
7. Tadej Valjavec (Slovenia, AG2R) same time
8. Stefan Schumacher (Germany, Gerolsteiner) +1min 03sec
9. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg, CSC) +1min 28sec
10. Bernhard Kohl (Austria, Gerolsteiner) same time

Selected others:

11. Cadel Evans (Australia, Silence-Lotto) same time
12. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg, Team CSC Saxo Bank) same time
144. David Millar (GB/Garmin) +31min 56sec

Overall standings (after 16 stages):

1. Frank Schleck (Lux/CSC) 68hrs 30min 16sec
2. Bernhard Kohl (Aut/GST) +7sec
3. Cadel Evans (Aus/SIL) +8sec
4. Carlos Sastre (Spa/CSC) +49sec
5. Denis Menchov (Rus/RAB) +1min 13sec
6. Christian Vandevelde (US/GAR) +3min 15sec
7. Kim Kirchen (Lux/COL) + 3min 23sec
8. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/GCE) + 4min 11sec
9. Samuel Sanchez (Spa/EUS) + 4mins 38sec
10. Tadej Valjavec (Slovenia/AG2R) +5min 23sec

Selected others:

65. David Millar (GB/Garmin) +1hr 23min 05sec

see also
Stage 16 as it happened
22 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Cavendish out of Tour de France
20 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Tour de France stage 14 photos
19 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Stage 14 as it happened
19 Jul 08 |  Cycling

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