American Lance Armstrong ruled himself out of going for an eighth Tour de France title after two crashes saw him finish Sunday's action-packed eighth stage almost 12 minutes adrift.
The 189km stage in the French Alps, the first real mountain stage of the race, was won by Luxembourg's Andy Schleck, with fellow contender Australian Cadel Evans taking possession of the race leader's yellow jersey.
Schleck, the Saxo Bank rider who finished second behind Spaniard Alberto Contador in last year's Tour, out-sprinted Euskaltel's Samuel Sanchez for the stage win after the duo broke 1km from the summit finish line.
World champion Evans of BMC and reigning champion Contador finished in a group of nine riders 10sec later.
Cadel Evans is now in yellow
Schleck is now second overall at 20secs, with Contador third at 1:01 while Armstrong -- after arguably his worst ever day on the race -- crossing the line 11:45 adrift.
The American fell twice during the stage and lost ground from the Col de la Ramaz, the first major climb of the Tour. He now stands 39th in the overall standings, 13:26 off Evans.
"My Tour is over," said Armstrong. "But I will stay in the race. I will enjoy it, I'll try and take some pleasure out of it, to support the team. I'm not complaining."
The 38-year-old fell first just after the start from Les Rousses and then a second time on the approach to the Col de la Ramaz.
"I've had a bad day, a very bad day. At the start, it was going okay, I felt strong. And then came the roundabout before the Col de la Ramaz. I clipped a pedal and then my tyre rolled off and the next thing I was rolling along the ground at 60-65 kph.
"It's already hard to come back, hard on the body."
Armstrong picks himself up from his second crash
The second category one climb of the race was the 14km ascension to the summit finish line at Morzine-Avoriaz. And with Armstrong trailing, the group of favourites did not think twice about pressing ahead.
The last remnant from an earlier five-man breakaway, Frenchman Amael Moinard of Cofidis, was caught by Contador's group a little over six kilometres from the summit. And from that point on Astana kept pushing to drop as many rivals as they could.
Daniel Navarro puts the boot in
Evans, who was left with scrapes after a fall only a few kilometres into the stage, said it was too windy and not steep enough for him to launch an attack.
"All the work Astana were doing put me and Andy in a good position to attack. But it was pretty windy out there on the climb, not flat at the finish, but not favourable to an attack," said the Australian.
"I'm just really happy to get yellow. I'm happy it's rest day."
Brad Wiggins lost 1'45
Britain's Bradley Wiggins, who was fourth overall last year, began slipping off the pace with four kilometres remaining, eventually losing 1:45 to Schleck to sit 14th overall at 2:45.
"I don't mind admitting I just wasn't good enough today. I did my best, that's all you can do in that situation," he said. "There came a point I couldn't afford to keep hanging on to that group."
Armstrong's setback will give a huge morale boost to all the remaining yellow jersey contenders, but most Contador, Schleck and Evans. However with Astana showing they are able to keep several of their riders in front on the crucial latter stages of the climbs, they have sent a warning to their yellow jersey rivals.
Nevertheless, Schleck felt the peloton should have employed race etiquette and waited on Armstrong when he crashed.
"I thought we should have waited on him. You have to have some respect. Plus, it's his last Tour," he said.
After Monday's rest day Tuesday's eighth stage from Morzine to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is arguably the hardest in the Alps.
© AFP 2010
For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com