Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador have emerged as the front runners for the Tour de France title after a gruelling 205km ninth stage in which world champion Cadel Evans dropped out of contention.
While France's Sandy Casar claimed stage victory, Schleck snatched the yellow jersey from Evans, who finished more than eight minutes off the pace after collapsing in the last big climb of the Alps.
Riding side by side with Contador during the last 30 kilometres, Schleck opened up a 41 second lead over the defending champion as the Tour neared the halfway point.
The Spanish maestro and his Luxembourg rival, who were first and second last year, left third-placed Samuel Sanchez trailing by 2:45.
The Tour will leave the Alps after a 179-kms 10th stage between Chambery and Gap tonight.