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Schleck takes yellow as Evans cracks

Andy Schleck wears the yellow jersey for the first time in his career after Tuesday's gruelling ninth stage of the race.
Andy Schleck wears the yellow jersey for the first time in his career after Tuesday's gruelling ninth stage of the race.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Last year's runner-up Andy Schleck is the new leader of the Tour de France
  • Schleck leads defending champion Alberto Contador by 41 seconds
  • Previous leader Cadel Evans lost eight minutes on the mountainous ninth stage
  • The 204.5km run to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne was won by Frenchman Sandy Casar

(CNN) -- Last year's runner-up Andy Schleck is the new leader of the Tour de France for the first time in his career after previous yellow jersey wearer, Cadel Evans, dramatically cracked on the mountainous 204.5km ninth stage of the race from Morzine-Avoriaz to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.

Schleck and defending champion Alberto Contador rode away from their rivals for overall classification on the brutal 25km ascent of the final climb of the day, the Col de la Madeleine, leaving Evans, Lance Armstrong, Carlos Sastre and many other race favorites trailing in their wake.

So impressive were Schleck and Contador, that they eventually caught the remaining five riders from a group of 12 that formed the decisive breakaway with 150km of the stage remaining.

Those seven riders eventually sprinted out for the stage victory, with Frenchman Sandy Casar crossing the line first, ahead of Spain's Luis Leon Sanchez and Italian Damiano Cunego in third position.

Right now I have the yellow jersey and I know it's not going to be a piece of cake to hold onto it.
--Andy Schleck
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However, the real story is the damage that Schleck and Contador have done to the overall classification and, despite the race not even at half distance, it now appears a straight fight between the two for overall victory.

Luxembourg's Schleck holds a 41-second lead over Spaniard Contador -- who is bidding to win the race for a third time.

"Right now I have the yellow jersey and I know it's not going to be a piece of cake to hold onto it," Schleck told the official Tour de France website.

"But I have a good team around me and of course I'm happy that I have it. It's a dream come true to have the yellow jersey but it's a little bit sad because everybody kind of expected it from me -- but it's something big and I recognize what the team have done."

Contador's compatriot Samuel Sanchez, the Olympic road race champion, led home the chasing pack on Tuesday to move up to third place overall, 2:45 behind.

Armstrong crossed the line in 18th position, nearly three minutes down on the leaders, while fellow-former winner Sastre was 27th -- losing almost five minutes on the day.

Meanwhile, a tearful Evans brought the yellow jersey home in 42nd position, a deficit of over eight minutes, to wave goodbye to any hopes of improving on his second placed finishes in 2007 and 2008.