Australian Cadel Evans was puzzled and annoyed by the time lost by most Tour de France favorites during the 18th stage on Thursday.
"It seems like the Schleck brothers had the best climbing team, in combination. They put it all on the line and they really had to do a long-range attack," the 2009 world champion said after finishing third in the stage behind Andy and Frank Schleck.
Andy Schleck attacked 60 kilometers from the line and no team really took control of the chase, thinking he would tire or hoping others would do the work.
"Just on a numbers basis, with 20 to 30 kph block headwind up a valley, we are in a group of 40 with one to nine guys riding at the front, and they are in a group of four riding at the front. They really rode fast at the front, I don't quite understand how they made so much time," said Evans.
Andy Schleck, helped by team mate Maxime Monfort and two early escapees, doubled his lead between the top of the Izoard pass and the foot of the Galibier on flat terrain which should have favored the chasers.
"Euskaltel had the most riders there at one point with four guys and they were riding with three or others, but still losing time," Evans said. "I had to put it on the line, but it was my Tour to win and mine to lose.
"It's also a bit bizarre when (Tour leader Thomas) Voeckler's team stops riding and he has the yellow jersey. They've ridden a lot all week, but he still had a team mate in the end and just sort of looked at me to do the work," he said.
The Australian, Tour runner-up in 2007 and 2008, took the chase into his own hands in the finale, climbing most of the last ascent on his own with the other favorites on his heels.
He probably was the fastest man on the Galibier, a performance that earned him praise from three-times Tour champion Alberto Contador, whom he dropped in the final kilometer.
"He did an incredible job and really showed what he's made of," the Spaniard said.