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Cunego wins stage as Evans take Vuelta lead

  • Story Highlights
  • Australian Cadel Evans takes the overall lead in the Vuelta Espana on Sunday
  • Evans finishes fourth behind Damiano Cunego in the mountainous eighth stage
  • He has narrow lead over Spanish duo Alejandro Valverde and Samuel Sanchez
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(CNN) -- Australian Cadel Evans took the overall lead in the Vuelta Espana after Sunday's eighth stage, the first in the mountains, won by Italian Damiano Cunego.

Damiano Cunego celebrates his first-ever Tour of Spain stage victory after his mountain-top win on Sunday.

Damiano Cunego celebrates his first-ever Tour of Spain stage victory after his mountain-top win on Sunday.

Evans finished the 204.7km stage between Alzira and Aitana in fourth place, 44 seconds behind Cunego, to take the gold jersey from Swiss Fabian Cancellara, who finished over 25 minutes behind on the day.

The 32-year-old Silence-Lotto rider, who finished second in both the 2007 and 2008 Tour de France, is just two seconds ahead of pre-race favorite Alejandro Valverde with another Spanish hope, Samuel Sanchez, eight second behind in third position.

Cunego sprinted clear of France's David Moncoutie in the final kilometer to win his first-ever Tour of Spain stage in six hours, four minutes and 54 seconds.

"I knew this could be my day. This is an important win for me," said Cunego -- who won the Giro d'Italia in 2004 when aged just 22.

Meanwhile, Luxembourg's Andy Schleck, who finished second in the Tour of France, pulled out of the race at the 88km mark.

Schleck ended the seventh stage on Saturday in 51st position overall, over three minutes off the pace.

The race continues on Monday with the 188.8km ninth stage from Alcoy to Xorret del Cati that includes two category one climbs.

Last year's top three finishers, Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer and Carlos Sastre, are all missing from the three-week race that ends in Madrid on September 20.

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