Today featured the ultimate mountain battle - three amazing climbs culminating in a mountaintop finish on the HC Col du Tourmalet - and Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador fought to a draw, with Schleck winning the stage (by about a wheel) and Contador keeping the yellow jersey.
After the usual break took off - doomed, as everyone knew, because the GC contenders would fight it out on the final climb - the peloton settled in and cruised over the first couple of Cat 1 climbs, descended into the valley, and then the hostilities began. Schleck's Saxobank team put down the hammer, and ground down the peloton to a small group of elite riders. At that point Schleck attacked, and only Contador could stay with him. They rode as hard as two guys can ride all the way up the steep climb, each attacking the other, and neither gave an inch. In the end Schleck won, but you could see Contador could have sprinted for the line, but choose not to... he kept his yellow jersey (by 8s), and most observers believe he'll open the gap substantially in Saturday's time trial. It was great to watch.
Meanwhile Sammy Sanchez survived a nasty crash early in the day to recover and keep third position, opening his slim lead over Denis Menchov slightly. Big winners on the day included Chris Horner and Ryder Hesjedal, losers included Levi Leipheimer and team Casse d'Epargne, who lost ground to Radio Shack in the team competition. (Lance hung tough on that final climb, as did Andreas Kloden, giving the Shack a good top three for the day.)
And so ... tomorrow we have a pure sprint stage, and then it is Saturday's time trial which will decide the winner. The green jersey also lies in the balance with points available tomorrow and Sunday. And chapeau to Anthony Charteau who has won the polka dot jersey as King of the Mountains...