Galibier Serre-Chevalier, France (Sports Network) - Andy Schleck used a brilliant solo attack to take Stage 18 of the Tour de France on Thursday, winning atop the Col du Galibier, but couldn't grab the yellow jersey.
Thomas Voeckler keeps hanging on.
Thanks largely to the efforts of Australia's Cadel Evans on the Galibier, the Frenchman kept the race lead for another day. He pushed and grimaced through the final kilometer to cross the line with a 15-second lead over Schleck.
Schleck's older brother, Frank, is 1:08 behind in third, while Evans is fourth with a deficit of 1:12. He drove the chase to catch Andy Schleck most of the way up to the summit of the Galibier, the highest finish in the Tour's history.
However, two-time defending champion Alberto Contador cracked on the climb, losing time and, in all likelihood, his chance to win a fourth Tour title. He is 4:44 behind Voeckler in seventh.
Thursday's stage was the second in the Alps and, with three beyond- categorization climbs, was expected to produce fireworks among general classification contenders. One Schleck didn't disappoint.
After the main contenders stayed together on the Agnel, Andy Schleck (Leopard- Trek) attacked on the Col d'Izoard and established a gap over a field that didn't immediately chase.
It was a timely and ambitious move. There were about 60 kilometers remaining in the 200.5-km stage when Schleck attacked, and those kilometers were not easy ones.
For the attack to work, Schleck had to sustain his effort up the Izoard, make a smooth descent to Briancon, power to the base of the final climb and hold on to his lead through the final ascent -- a 23-kilometer punisher that only got steeper toward the top.
Schleck, first and foremost a climber, has never been noted for his descending or time trialing abilities.
But the move was also tactically sound. Schleck had two teammates up the road from an early breakaway to provide some assistance, and the attack allowed his brother to stay comfortably on the wheels of other contenders.
So when Schleck attacked, he really went for it.
Contador's Saxo Bank-Sungard teammate Daniel Navarro moved to the front and picked up the pace, but Schleck had a lead of several minutes at the top of the Izoard.
He kept expanding the distance on the descent. With teammate Maxime Monfort, Schleck tore through the turns and caught other riders who were in the early breakaway.
Monfort helped his Leopard-Trek leader build a lead of about four minutes with 20 kilometers to go before fading, and then it was all up to Schleck.
Behind, there was disarray among a select group of GC contenders. Despite the presence of Voeckler, Evans, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Contador, Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) and Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), nobody pressed the pace and Schleck's advantage went above four minutes.
Voeckler even had a teammate, Pierre Rolland, but they seemed content to sit in the group.
At last, though, Evans took off with 13 kilometers left. He pulled the entire way up the Galibier with the rest of the GC contenders on his wheel and crazed fans lining the road.
But his effort succeeded; Schleck's advantage dwindled and the lead group thinned out. With five kilometers left, Evans had Voeckler, Rolland, Contador, Frank Schleck, Basso and Cunego with him.
Contador faded from the group a few kilometers later. He surged to reconnect but ultimately couldn't hold the pace, and was dropped off permanently.
Ahead, Schleck was running out of steam but had enough in his legs to cross the line in six hours, seven minutes and 56 seconds. It was his third career Tour stage win.
"Today is the best of my victories," Schleck said. "So far we have seen a race that's been waiting for a decisive moment and I decided to take matters in to my hand, and that's why I started my attack from a long way out."
But there was still the matter of the yellow jersey. Schleck entered Thursday's stage 2:36 behind Voeckler and had to wait to see if he would overtake the race lead.
His brother surged to finish second on the stage, followed by Evans and Basso.
Voeckler approached the finish further back with the clock ticking and his legs struggling to keep the pedals turning.
"In the end I had no earphone, and I asked Frank Schleck how much time his brother had in advance, but he said he did not know," Voeckler said. "Then I saw that it was just under three minutes, so I said to Pierre Rolland that we had to ride."
The Frenchman crossed the line 2:21 behind Schleck to keep the lead, his face a mixture of pain and relief. After finishing he remained atop his bike, leaning against a rail and gasping for air.
But he, against all odds and predictions, is still wearing the yellow jersey.
Voeckler has another challenge ahead of him Friday in Stage 19. The stage is short -- 109.5 km -- but includes more climbing. It starts with the Col du Telegraphe before sending riders up the Galibier a second time and finishing atop Alpe d'Huez.
07/21 14:01:49 ET