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But the Luxembourger, one of the yellow jersey favorites at next month’s Tour de France, was upstaged by Belgian Thomas De Gendt for the stage win that would have made his week.
“Winning today’s stage was the goal, and I felt really good going full gas up the final climb,” said Schleck, who is primarily honing his condition for the July 2-25 epic on which he has finished runner-up to Alberto Contador the past two years.
The Leopard-Trek rider had spent precious energy earlier in the stage to join two breakaways, eventually making the successful second break but finding himself alone and with few options against riders with teammates.
“With the make-up of the group, I knew I would need to be a bit cautious,” added Schleck.
“Vacansoleil and Movistar each had three riders in the move, and I was only one. I knew there was the possibility that they would attack one after and another to wear me or the others down. Being alone, I had to play it clever.”
Vacansoleil rider De Gendt had opened up a small gap on the descent of the Fluelapass, an unclassified climb, and went on to start the final climb to Serfaus with a lead of over a minute on Schleck.
“When De Gendt went, I considered my options,” added Schleck.
“It wasn’t the perfect spot for me on the downhill, so I waited. As soon as we reached the base of the final climb, I made my move.”
To his credit, Schleck dug in but despite grinding out an impressive tempo throughout the chase, the Luxemburger finished 35 seconds adrift in second.
He was still consoled with what he felt was another good test for July’s Tour.
“Going all-out on that climb felt good,” said Schleck, who suffered a slump early on the final climb in Thursday’s stage to Malbun in Liechtenstein.
“Yesterday was a bad day, and although I wasn’t worried, it was reassuring today to see that my form is there.
“I still have two weeks to add to my fitness level, and I had confirmation today that I am in a good spot in my final build-up to peak condition.”
Having led over both climbs prior to the mountain-top finish, Schleck deposed Dutchman Laurens Ten Dam as the king of the mountains, with the only remaining points in Saturday’s mainly flat eighth stage.
But the Luxemburger admits he has far bigger ambitions, in a few weeks’ time.
“It’s nice to have the mountain jersey now, but green is still the second color behind yellow.”
The race finishes Sunday with a 32.1km time trial which will decide whether Italian Damiano Cunego holds on to his overall lead.