GAP, France — Defending champion Alberto Contador caught his Tour de France rivals by surprise with a brash climbing attack Tuesday, gaining time on leader Thomas Voeckler during a rainy 16th stage won by Thor Hushovd.
Contador burst from pack in the final climb of the 101-mile course from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Gap. Among the other big title contenders, only Cadel Evans of Australia could keep up. Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, like Evans a two-time runner-up, lost ground.
"I knew I needed to attack," Contador said. "I couldn't care less if someone kept on my wheel; I knew one of them would fail. I'm so happy. It has been a major gap, much bigger that I expected."
Voeckler expects to give up the yellow jersey before the race ends Sunday in Paris. "I kept it by a handful of seconds, but that shows that I've hit my ceiling," he said.
Hushovd led a three-man breakaway to win a stage for the second time on this Tour. Fellow Norwegian Edvald Boassen Hagen was second and Hushovd's Garmin-Cervelo teammate Ryder Hesjedal was third.
Hushovd, a veteran star sprinter, showed off his new talents when he won Stage 13 over a big climb. This time, he broke away on a rolling course.