HAUTACAM, France A bruised and sore Cadel Evans of Australia took the yellow jersey at the Tour de France on Monday after Leonardo Piepoli of Italy won a punishing climb through the Pyrenees to capture the 10th stage.
Evans, the Silence Lotto leader and one of the race favorites, entered the stage six seconds behind Kim Kirchen of Luxembourg. Kirchen had worn the yellow jersey the past four days. Evans beat him by more than two minutes despite aches and cuts from a nasty crash Sunday.
"I thought my Tour was finished yesterday," Evans said.
Evans' eyes welled up with tears as he donned the yellow jersey. This was the first time he has held the Tour lead, having finished second behind Alberto Contador of Spain last year.
Evans emerged with a one-second lead over Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, who finished ahead of Evans but had trailed the Australian by 1:50 coming into the stage.
Riders have their first of two rest days Tuesday. The three-week race finishes in Paris on July 27.
Most of the top favorites distanced themselves from the main pack in the 97-mile stage from Pau to Hautacam. The course featured the passes of Tourmalet and Hautacam climbs so hard they are beyond classification.
Piepoli crossed the line a split second ahead of his Saunier Duval teammate, Juan Jose Cobo Acebo of Spain. Schleck was far behind in third, with Evans in a trailing pack with the other main contenders.
The day's biggest loser was Alejandro Valverde, the Spanish national champion seen as a potential title threat. He couldn't keep up with his main rivals in the first climb up Tourmalet and lost precious minutes.
History may work in Evans' favor. In the three Tours with a stage finishing at the Hautacam, the rider who emerged with yellow jersey after the grueling 8.9-mile ascent kept the lead all the way to the finish: Miguel Indurain in 1994, Bjarne Riis in 1996 and Lance Armstrong in 2000.
"Like the others who took the yellow jersey on the Hautacam, I hope I can continue in it," Evans said.
Remy di Gregorio, a Frenchman who crashed out of his first Tour last year with a broken elbow, led the pack over the 11-mile Tourmalet pass. The favorites ultimately overtook di Gregorio early in the climb up the Hautacam, with less than eight miles to go.
Britain's Mark Cavendish of Team Columbia, who won the fifth and eighth stages, and Danny Pate of the United States crashed early in the stage. They got back on their bikes, and Cavendish was treated by the race doctor for an injured left shoulder.
Yury Trofimov of Russia quit the race because of a cold and fatigue, Bouygues Telecom sporting director Didier Rous said. The field now has 169 riders, 11 fewer than at the start.