Schleck takes Tour lead after 15th stage |

Schleck takes Tour lead after 15th stage

Frank Schleck of Luxemburg, center, Bernhard Kohl of Austria, left, Cadel Evans of Australia, second from right, and Alejandro Valverde of Spain, right, climb towards Prato Nevoso during the 15th stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Embrun, France, and Prato Nevoso, Italy, Sunday July 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski)

PRATO NEVOSO, Italy ” Frank Schleck of Luxembourg seized the overall lead in the Tour de France on Sunday, drawing on his strength in the mountains and getting an assist from his brother as the three-week race headed into the Italian Alps.

“For me to take the yellow jersey, it’s a childhood dream,” Schleck said.

Cycling’s premier event got a new leader on a day when Simon Gerrans of Australia captured the 15th stage. This was his first stage victory in four Tour appearances, and he called it a “beautiful thing.”

Schleck outpaced Cadel Evans up the final climb to wrest the yellow jersey from the Australian. Schleck leads Bernhard Kohl of Austria by seven second while Evans is third, eight seconds back.

Schleck credited CSC teammate and younger brother Andy for surging ahead at least twice during the final climb in a bid to force Evans to work hard.

“Thanks, bro,” Frank Schleck said.

Frank Schleck has won before in the Alps ” a Tour stage in 2006 up the famed Alpe d’Huez, which riders will face Wednesday.

Sunday’s stage led riders on a nearly 13-mile ascent up the Agnel Pass and a final climb for seven miles as the race entered the final week.

Gerrans, of the Credit Agricole team, led a four-man group that broke away from the main pack early along the 114-mile route from Embrun, France, to Prato Nevoso.

Gerrans finished in 4 hours, 50 minutes, 44 seconds and beat Spain’s Egoi Martinez by 3 seconds. U.S. rider Danny Pate was third, 10 seconds behind.

“It was a big surprise for me,” said Gerrans, adding he believed Martinez and Pate were better climbers.

Evans entered the stage one second ahead of Schleck and 38 ahead of Christian Vande Velde of the United States.

The race lost two notable riders ” Spain’s Oscar Pereiro and Britain’s Mark Cavendish.

Pereiro, the 2006 winner, broke his shoulder when he crashed over a guard rail during a sharp turn. He was injured about 50 miles into the stage and was taken to a hospital in Cuneo. Pereiro won two years ago after Floyd Landis was stripped of his title for doping.

Cavendish, a sprinter who won four stages in this race, pulled out before a day of mountain racing. His team said he was fatigued and the Alps posed too big an obstacle. Cavendish now will concentrate on next

month’s Olympics.

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