Jelle Vanendert secured his first win as a professional atop the Plateau de Beille on stage 14 of the Tour de France.
With Omega Pharma-Lotto’s general classification contender Jurgen Van Den Broeck out of the race after crashing on stage nine, Vanendert signalled his intention with a second place finish to Samuel Sanchez on stage 12.
And the 26-year-old went one better on the final day in the Pyrenees, beating Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Sanchez by 21 seconds before Andy Schleck led home a group of GC favourites – and yellow jersey Thomas Voeckler – after 46 seconds.
“I would be lying if I said that I expected to stay with the best climbers today,” admitted Voeckler, who leads Frank Schleck by one minute, 46 seconds in the overall standings.
“The yellow jersey has given me great confidence but I’m really surprised to keep it. We’ll try and keep it as long as possible well. But as I’ve said, we’ll take things one day at a time. We’ll have to be careful even on the stage to Montpellier because it can be windy down there.”
The Schleck brothers’ Leopard-Trek team hit the bottom of the hors categorie Plateau de Beille two minutes, 14 seconds behind the remnants of the day’s break, whose brave bid for glory was soon ended as the road reared up.
Andy Schleck launched two attacks in quick succession but was unable to dispose of his rivals, with Voeckler chasing every break, before Vanendert slipped away to quickly build the decisive lead.
“This is really amazing. Taking my first win as a pro at the Tour de France is a nice surprise,” said Vanendert.
“After staying with Andy Schleck’s attacks, I thought I didn’t have anything to lose because I’m not a threat in the GC. I decided to go before the favourites made their moves and get a gap, thinking that if they came back, I’d have recovered. But nobody came back to me.”