Tour de France 15: Frank Schleck takes yellow

Race explodes in Italy as Simon Gerrans wins

Australian pro Simon Gerrans (Crédit Agricole) outkicked Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) and American Danny Pate (Garmin-Chipotle) to win the 185km Stage 15 of the 2008 Tour de France from Embrun to Prato Nevoso in Italy, as Team CSC-Saxo Bank's Frank Schleck took the race leader's yellow jersey from Cadel Evans in a thrilling mountain stage Sunday.

Gerolsteiner's Bernhard Kohl lies second (:07), with Evans in third (:08). Denis Menchov (:38), Christian Vande Velde (:39) and Carlos Sastre (:49) all lie within 49 seconds of yellow. The 2008 Tour de France is far from over.

Gerrans had been part of a four-man breakaway which escaped early in the race to go on and build a maximum lead of just over 17 minutes on the bunch.

On one of the final bends the Credit Agricole rider made a decisive move, changing down a gear and pulling ahead of Martinez. Pate finished ahead of Jose Luis Arrieta of AG2R.

With respect to the frontrunners, the big battle was going on in their wake. And it resulted in what could be described as the most open Tour in years, with five riders within one minute of Schleck.

After a dramatic finale on the 11.1km climb to the Italian ski station Schleck came over the finish line nine seconds ahead of Evans having started the race one second behind the Australian.

Despite losing the jersey, Evans did extremely well to limit his losses, especially against a CSC team which showed once again that it will be difficult to outfox in the remaining two alpine stages, to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday. Monday is a rest day.

It means Evans, last year's runner-up, is now third overall at eight seconds behind Schleck. Austrian surprise Kohl kept the pace with Schleck in the final kilometres to move up to second overall at seven seconds.

Rabobank's Menchov remained in contention but flirted with disaster around four kilometres from the summit finish line when he accelerated away from Evans' yellow jersey group. However the Rabobank rider's progress was soon halted when he skidded and came crashing down going round a bend.

Menchov, who got back on his bike to rejoin Carlos Sastre - who ended the day still sixth but just 49secs behind teammate Schleck - in the closing stages, was not the only victim of the day.

Spaniard Oscar Pereiro, the 2006 champion, ended up in the hospital after a dramatic fall which left him with shoulder injuries. Britain's David Millar and his Garmin team leader Christian Vande Velde also came crashing down as the peloton rode around both sides of a roundabout prior to approaching the final climb.

Vande Velde, however, recovered to stay well in contention with the big favourites, the American now sitting in fourth place overall at 39 seconds behind Schleck.

For full results, report and photos, visit Click here to watch video highlights, then listen to BikeRadar's daily Tour podcasts here.

© BikeRadar & AFP 2008

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