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The Early Lead
Posted at 01:16 PM ET, 07/22/2011

Tour de France: Andy Schleck takes yellow jersey; Frank Schleck in second after 19th stage


Luxembourg's Andy Schleck claimed the yellow jersey Friday, but older brother Frank is a close second with only two stages remaining. (PASCAL PAVANI - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Can you imagine a greater stage on which to settle an epic sibling rivalry than the final weekend of the Tour de France?

For brothers Andy and Frank Schleck, the proposition has suddenly become reality as the teammates from Luxembourg find themselves sitting atop the leaderboard with only two stages remaining.

Andy Schleck, the younger of the two brothers, made up the 15-second deficit to overtake French hopeful Thomas Voeckler during Friday’s brutal climb up Alpe d’Huez.

Frank Schleck moved into second place, 53 seconds behind his brother, and Australian Cadel Evans is third, 57 seconds back.

The leaderboard shake-up is a testament to the skill, drive and above all — teamwork — of the Schleck brothers, but it brings about a tricky situation as the riders prepare to ride into Paris in Sunday’s final stage.

Which brother will end up atop the podium?

Over the three days in the Alps, the Schlecks have expertly worked in unison to stay with two-time defending champion Alberto Contador, eventually pulling ahead of the pesky Voeckler.

Now, Saturday’s individual time trial the only stage left before Sunday’s ride into Paris — during which riders rarely push the leader — presents an opportunity for both brothers (and Evans) to prove their superiority. Evans has shown his ability to excel in time trails and could spoil the Schlecks’ plains, but Andy Schleck is determined to take home the title.

“Everybody tells me (Saturday is) a time trial that suits me good, so I believe everybody and hope to show a good performance.”

And if the margin between the top two or three spots shrinks to anything less than 20 seconds after Saturday, might they battle it out down the Champs- Ély sées?

If the Schlecks somehow manage to finish on the first and second steps of the podium, it would be a special tribute to a former teammate — and surely an emotional moment. Belgian Leopard Trek teammate Wouter Weylandt died in a crash during the third stage of the Giro d’Italia on May 9.

By  |  01:16 PM ET, 07/22/2011

 
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