LOUDENVIELLE-LE LOURON, France – Feeling increasing pressure on the course and off it, Michael Rasmussen has refused to crack and his hold on the Tour de France lead is looking increasingly solid with five days of racing left.
The wiry Dane reeled in repeated breakaway attempts by Alberto Contador, his last major challenger for the yellow jersey, in Monday’s punishing ride along five climbs in the Pyrenees.
One-time race favorite Alexandre Vinokourov won the 15th stage along the Spanish border, his second stage victory this year, continuing a pattern of toggling between a bad showing one day with an exceptional performance the next.
Rasmussen has been a paragon of consistency.
He has needed to be.
Rasmussen said the young Contador was giving him heat up the Peyresourde Pass – the last of five ascents Monday, including the Port de Bales, one of the toughest climbs in cycling.
“He probably has the best acceleration of anybody on the climbs, and I was certainly under pressure, but luckily enough I managed to get back every time,” Rasmussen said.
Vinokourov broke away near the finish of the 122-mile run.
Rasmussen crossed the line 5:31 back, alongside Contador. The 24-year-old Spaniard with Discovery Channel is second overall, 2:23 back, and seemingly the only man able to keep pace.
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