Belgium's Vanendert wins Tour de France 14th stage
Updated: July 16, 2011, 12:20
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PLATEAU DE BEILLE, France (AP) Belgian rider Jelle Vanendert won the 14th stage of the Tour de France, and French cyclist Thomas Voeckler retained the race leader's yellow jersey on Saturday.
Vanendert clinched the first Tour stage win of his career, finishing 21 seconds ahead of Samuel Sanchez of Spain, and 46 seconds in front of third-place Andy Schleck of Luxembourg.
"I never imagined this would happen to me on my first Tour de France,'' Vanendert said. "I have been feeling good in the mountains.''
Big attacks from the Tour contenders were expected in the most grueling stage of the Pyrenees so far. But Schleck only gained two seconds on defending champion Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans despite several attempts.
Evans crossed the line fourth ahead of Colombia's Rigoberto Uran and Contador, all 48 seconds behind Vanendert.
"It wasn't possible to make a big difference, I need a steeper stage than this,'' said Schleck, who rides for the Leopard Trek team with his older brother Frank. "We worked hard, we climbed well. But when you attacked today, you could only get 50 meters ahead because there was a bit of wind. But still, I got a few seconds at the end.''
The 105-mile trek from Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille finished with a 10-mile climb to Plateau de Beille, a famed and tortuous ascent.
Early in the last climb, two-time Tour runner-up Schleck was next to three-time champion Contador, and kept looking over at the Spaniard to see if he was struggling. Contador beat Schleck to win the Tour the last two years.
With about 6 miles remaining, Schleck, Contador and Evans accelerated ahead of the main pack.
Schleck then launched another attack soon after, with Contador struggling to follow until he got on Frank Schleck's wheel and caught up a few seconds later.
When Andy Schleck went on the attack for the third time with 5 miles left, he could not distance Contador and Evans - who was Tour runner-up in 2007 and '08.
Having waited for his moment, Vanendert timed his attack perfectly with 4 miles left, and Sanchez left it too late to reel him in.
As the small group of contenders and outsiders jostled for position, Italian Ivan Basso and Voeckler tried to slip away from the Schleck brothers and Contador.
Finally it was Sanchez's turn to attack some 2 miles from the top, and they all let him go as he is not a Tour contender.
The 15th stage Sunday to Montpellier is a flat stage for sprinters. A rest day follows on Monday before the riders head to the Italian and French Alps for three more days of climbing, before a time trial on the penultimate stage.