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Christophe Ena, Associated Press
Frank Schleck of Luxemburg, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, center and Bernhard Kohl of Austria, wearing the best climber's dotted jersey, left below, climb towards Lombarde pass during the 16th stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Cuneo, northern Italy, and Jausiers, French Alps, today.

JAUSIERS, France — French rider Cyril Dessel won Tuesday's 16th stage of the Tour de France, and Frank Schleck of Luxembourg retained the yellow jersey as the pack returned from Italy across two huge Alpine climbs.

Dessel won his first Tour stage victory by leading a breakaway group of four riders to a downhill finish after the 97.6-mile trek from Cuneo, Italy to Jausiers.

"It makes me incredibly happy," Dessel said. "The tactic was to try to join a breakaway."

Schleck finished 1 minute, 28 seconds after Dessel, but didn't lose any time to his main title rivals. Bernhard Kohl of Austria is second overall, .07 seconds behind, and Cadel Evans of Australia is third, .08 back.

Schleck and Evans made time on another pre-race favorite, Denis Menchov of Russia. He slipped to fifth place, 1:13 back, after coming into the stage 0:38 behind in fourth place.

American rider Christian Vande Velde lost even more ground in the title hunt, falling to sixth place, 3:15 behind, after starting the ride 0:39 back of Schleck in fifth.

The stage took riders along two climbs which are beyond classification: the 13.3-mile Lombarde pass and the 15.8-mile La Bonette-Restefond pass.

South African rider John-Lee Augustyn was the first to cross the peak of La Bonnette-Restefond, but he skidded off the road on a turn in the descent and onto a barren, rock-strewn mountainside. A spectator had to help him back up to the road and he rejoined the race.

Augustyn's Barloworld team can't afford to lose him: injuries and a doping case have reduced the squad to the minimum of five riders. He finished 5:27 back from Dessel.

The 17th stage Wednesday is a 130.8-mile ride featuring the Galibier and Croix de Fer passes and a finish up the L'Alpe d'Huez — all three climbs are beyond classification.