Sandy Casar Wins Stage 9 and Andy Schleck Grabs Overall Tour de France Lead
Saxo Bank rider steals yellow from BMC Racing Team's World Champion Cadel Evans, who fought bravely but faded on Stage 9's Col de la Madeleine climb with fractured arm.
Andy Schleck of Team Saxo Bank captured the overall lead at the Tour de France at the end of a mountainous ninth stage won by French rider Sandy Casar on Tuesday.
Schleck took the yellow jersey from Australia's Cadel Evans, who wore it for only one day, after finishing seventh in the stage, two seconds behind Casar and alongside two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador.
Evans was dropped on the fabled Madeleine pass and lost more than 8 minutes on Schleck and Contador.
Casar led a sprint among seven breakaway riders at the finish of the 204.5-kilometer (127-mile) trek from Morzine to Saint-Jean-La-Maurienne - the second and final day in the Alps containing three tough climbs.
The Francaise des Jeux rider collected his third career stage win at the Tour, blazing ahead of Luis-Leon Sanchez in second and Damiano Cunego in third -- all three riders clocking 5 hours, 38 minutes, 10 seconds.
"It's pure happiness," the 31-year-old Casar said. "I wanted it so much it couldn't have happened any other way."
Contador and Schleck trailed two seconds back, setting the stage for a two-man fight for the title. Schleck leads his Spanish rival by 41 seconds, while Spain's Samuel Sanchez - who finished 8th, 52 seconds back - jumped to third and trails the leader by 2:45.
For a while, it looked like Luis Leon Sanchez, who entered the day in 20th place - 5:03 back of Evans - might take the yellow jersey. The Caisse d'Epargne leader was among 12 cyclists who broke away and had a lead of roughly six and a half minutes on the pack about two-thirds of the way through the stage -- but before the Madeleine.
That was when Schleck and Contador engaged in a dramatic duel about midway through the punishing climb, with the Luxembourg rider attacking on several occasions -- but unable to shake the Spaniard.
At the top of the Madeleine, with a long descent ahead, Contador, Schleck and Samuel Sanchez trailed about 2:10 back of a small group of breakaway riders. By the foot, they trailed by only about 1:40, and continued to gain on the escapees in the 13-kilometer flat to the finish.
It was a dazzling display of acceleration.
"I think he and I are a little above the others," Schleck said of Contador. "I didn't put time on Contador, but he couldn't drop me either."
Evans finished 8 minutes, 9 seconds back from Casar, in 42nd place. The two-time Tour runner-up broke down after the finish, burying his head in the hug of a BMC Racing teammate and sobbing in painful tears. Boy, has that man suffered from a lot of bad luck!
Evans said he felt bad for his teammates and staffers: "Everyone who believed in me in this whole project - you know, everything was going so good - I'm just so sorry to let them all down," he said.
After the stage, team doctor Max Testa said Evans was riding with a "small but very painful" fracture on his elbow after crashing early in the eighth stage on Sunday - when he captured the coveted yellow shirt. He said Evans' teammates didn't know about his fracture on Monday and BMC staff didn't tell them so as not to disrupt "the morale of the team."
Andy Schleck now leads the Tour de France 2010. Need we remind him that if the rest of the peloton hadn't waited for him when he and his brother crashed in stage two, he would have lost 4-5 minutes in that stage. Who waited for Evans and his fractured elbow in today's stage? Schleck for sure didn't. So much for "fair play".
Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong fared relatively well as many other riders dropped off the title contenders on the Col de la Madeleine - one of the toughest climbs in cycling. The United States rider finished 18th, 2:50 behind Casar.
Armstrong rose in the standings to 31st, from 39th, but lost time in the overall title chase. He's now 15:54 behind Schleck.
The peloton faces three medium- to high-level ascents in Wednesday's 10th stage, a 179-kilometer ride from Chambery to Gap. The race ends on July 25 in Paris.
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Click here for stage 9 results.