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Contador takes Tour de France lead in stage won by Voeckler

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France -- Andy Schleck lost the overall lead in the Tour de France to defending champion Alberto Contador on Monday after suffering a mechanical problem at a disastrous moment in a 15th stage won by Thomas Voeckler.

Afterward, a furious Schleck accused Contador of taking the yellow jersey unfairly because he didn't wait while Schleck stopped to fix the chain on his bike. Contador insisted he didn't know Schleck had had a problem.

Schleck had accelerated less than 2.5 miles from the top of the big climb of the day, the Port de Bales, but almost immediately lost his chain, forcing him to stop on the side of the road. Contador shot past, gaining valuable time while Schleck got his chain back on.

The Luxembourg rider then tried to ride his way back through the field to catch up with Contador and the other leaders in the overall competition, but was unable to make up the time. He finished 39 seconds behind Contador, who holds the overall lead by 8 seconds.

Schleck said that according to cycling etiquette the riders should have waited for him, which was what happened when he crashed during an early stage.

"Today, you know, everybody is in panic, they see already the Eiffel Tower. I would not have taken advantage of the situation," he said. "It's not up to me ... but for sure these guys don't get the fair-play prize today."

He added: "I wouldn't want to take the jersey like that."

Contador said he was not aware of Schleck's problem until he had gone far past him.

"I planned to attack anyway, and when I knew what had happened to him I was already ahead and racing," he said. "Of course I know it's a delicate situation and could lead to debate, but I don't believe that to lose or win 30 seconds at this point will make you win or lose the Tour de France."

It was the second stage victory for Voeckler after another solo win in Perpignan last year.

He also held the yellow jersey for nine days in 2004.

He finished Monday's 116.5-mile 15th stage from Pamiers to Bagneres-de-Luchon in 4 hours, 44 minutes, 51 seconds, ahead of Alessandro Ballan of Italy and Aitor Perez of Spain.

Today's 16th stage, the third in the Pyrenees, is one of the toughest of all, taking the riders 124 mile from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Pau.

The course goes over the major climbs of the Col de Peyresourde, Col d'Aspin and Col d'Aubisque, but the highlight will be the first of two crossings of the legendary Col du Tourmalet.