Riblon conquers climbs to win Stage 14
AX-3 DOMAINES, France -- Christophe Riblon of France won the Tour de France's first stage in the Pyrenees on Sunday, while Andy Schleck fended off challenges from Alberto Contador to remain the race's overall leader.
Riblon finished in 4 hours, 52 minutes, 42 seconds -- 54 seconds ahead of Denis Menchov of Russia and Samuel Sanchez of Spain.
Schleck was 1:08 behind in fourth, in a group that also included defending champion Contador.
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The pair stuck together throughout the 114.7-mile 14th stage from Revel, with the Luxembourg rider matching the Spaniard's accelerations on the final climb to the ski resort of Ax-3 Domaines.
Schleck said he hadn't tried to overtake Contador for fear that the Spaniard would launch a late attack and go past him.
"I feel really good, and if he wants to get me tomorrow, he has to be really good," Schleck said.
Schleck's advantage over Contador remained at 31 seconds, with Sanchez now 2:31 back. Menchov was fourth at 2:44.
Riblon earned his first Tour de France stage victory, and fourth for France this year.
"I've been a professional for 5½ years and I've been waiting for this for 5½ years," the 29-year-old Riblon said.
Part of a group that broke away in the first 19 miles of the race, he was alone in front near the top of the major climb of the day, the Port de Pailheres. He held his lead over the summit, down the long descent and then up the climb to Ax-3 Domaines.
"My aim was to arrive at the bottom with as much time as possible without losing all my strength. Then I did a good climb," Riblon said.
Monday's 15th stage is the second in the Pyrenees and takes the riders 116.5 miles from Pamiers to Bagneres-de-Luchon, over the major climb of Port de Bales before descending to finish on the flat.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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