Tour de France 2010, Stage 14: Waiting for a champion

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This Tour has seen just about everything: Crashes on oil-slickened pavement, Lance Armstrong lagging off the back of the pack, head-butting and subsequent disqualification.

But until today, we hadn’t seen one thing: A track stand!

Yet that’s what happened on the killer slopes of Ax-3-Domaines.

In a faceoff that will be analyzed from here till Tuesday but never quite fully explained, the two leaders almost came to a standstill as they jockeyed for position and tried to test each other and then catch the other off guard.

It was supposed to be a dramatic showdown, gloves off, mano-a-mano, on the vicious, punishing slopes of the Pyrenees. Instead Tour leaders Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador played not David and Goliath, not Ali and Frazier, not even Wiley C. Coyote and the Roadrunner.

It was cat and mouse.

Faced with repeated but tentative attacks, Schleck simply stayed on Contador’s wheel. Finally a frustrated Contador seemed to say, OK, pass me and then we’ll see what happens. Schleck wasn’t having any of it, though. You’re not going to get me ahead and then spring around me for a launch off the front, he seemed to be saying.

Post-stage interviews shed little light, with both saying more or less it was a day of strategic forays.

Still, one of the stranger mountain faceoffs the Tour has ever seen.

Perhaps Day Two in the Pyrenees will offer a little more “separation,” as they say.

Full report from VeloNews.

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