By Brecht Decaluwé in Prato Nevoso
After six days of riding just one second from the yellow jersey, Fränk Schleck finally gained the coveted garment in Prato Nevoso, Italy. The CSC-Saxo Bank team played a tactical battle with its two leaders, Carlos Sastre and Schleck, using the renewed climbing strength of Schleck's younger brother Andy to put the morning's leader Cadel Evans into difficulty.
Schleck made his first step at putting himself into yellow jersey contention on stage ten to Hautacam, where he attacked the group of Evans to gain back all but one second of the time he lost in the stage four time trial. His second step came on Sunday's stage 15, where he attacked in the final kilometre to gain nine seconds on Evans to take yellow. However, his result could also be viewed as an 18 second loss to Rabobank's Denis Menchov, who was further up the road behind Sastre.
While their tactics placed Schleck in yellow and moved Sastre 37 seconds closer to former leader Cadel Evans, CSC-Saxo Bank's two leaders will need to gain more time on Evans and Rabobank's Denis Menchov, both of whom are superior time trialists, before the penultimate day's 53 kilometre race against the clock.
To fulfil his dream of taking the overall victory in Paris, Schleck now faces the difficult prospect of taking the sole mountain top finish on l'Alpe d'Huez to gain enough time to hold the yellow jersey through the time trial. But the Luxembourg champion didn't want to think about the hard road ahead, but only wished to enjoy his moment.
"Don't kick me now that I'm happy," Schleck said. "I know that I have to gain more time on some guys, but let me enjoy it for now. I know that I'll need to attack again if I want to win the Tour. Just leave me alone," Schleck said, half-jokingly. "I missed out on the yellow jersey by only one second [on Hautacam], and finally I was able to gain back some seconds on Evans.