Yesterday the leading contenders finally produced fireworks rather than damp squibs. It was Alberto Contador who set things off early on the only categorised climb of the day – the Col de Manse (2nd Cat). Unlike Andy Schleck's tentative forays on the Plateau de Beille, Alberto put in a series of more sustained attacks and duly got his reward. Only Cadel Evans and Samuel Sanchez were able to stay with him. The Schlecks were some 30 seconds down by the top of the climb.
Worst was to come on the descent as Andy Schleck lost further time ending 66 seconds behind Cadel Evans who dropped Contador and Sanchez on the descent and gained three seconds on them at the line. Voeckler held onto his Yellow Jersey comfortably although he lost time on this leading trio. Obviously Evans was the biggest gainer of the day, although Alberto showed that his knee must now be better and that he is ready to attack.
The Schlecks, in particular Andy, were the biggest losers compounded by Andy's winge about descents being dangerous. By their comments after the stage both brothers reinforced the impression that they hate going downhill. They look to be paying for their timidity in the Pyrénées.
Although Mark Cavendish didn't pick up any more points, it was a good day for him holding onto his Green Jersey, coming in just seven places behind Andy Schleck and seeing his rivals just pick up a few points: Rojas 3 and Gilbert 2.
17th Stage: Gap to Pinerolo
Today's mountain stage takes the riders into Italy (179k) over two 3rd cat, two 2nd cat and Sestrières – 1st cat. There is a lot of descending in the final part of the stage, so the Schlecks could again be under threat. Will Contador again attack? He will want to try to gain time on Evans if he can.
The intermediate sprint comes shortly after the first climb of the day – the Côte de Sainte-Marguerite, which is short (2.8K) but quite steep (7.4%), so unless there is a big breakaway Cav ought to be able to pick up a few more points here. Being a mountain stage there are only 20 points available to the winner of the stage.
1st: Thomas Voeckler
2nd Cadel Evans: + 1.45
3rd: Frank Schleck: + 1.49
4th: Andy Schleck: + 3.03
5th: Samuel Sanchez: + 3.26
6th: Alberto Contador: + 3.42
7th: Ivan Basso: + 3.49
8th: Damiano Cunego: + 4.01