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Tour de France Stage 9 whittles contenders down to Schleck, Contador

After Stage 8 of the Tour de France took Lance Armstrong out of the race, two other possible contenders – Cadel Evans and Carlos Sastre – lost critical time. Now it's a race between defending champion Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck.

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Alberto Contador, left, gestures as he talks to new overall leader Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, right, as they climb towards Madeleine pass during the 9th stage of the Tour de France Tuesday.

Bas Czerwinski/AP

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Only halfway into the 2010 Tour de France, there are effectively only two real contenders remaining for the coveted yellow jersey: defending champion Alberto Contador and rising star Andy Schleck.

The duo, recharged after Monday’s rest day, rode away from the peloton on Stage 9’s final climb, the grueling Col de la Madeleine.

Forty kilometers later, they cruised across the finish line in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne with an iron grip on the overall classification. Their closest rival, 2008 Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez, trails Contador by two minutes and four seconds.

“Right now it looks like it’s just Alberto versus me,” says Schleck, who has a 41-second lead over the Spaniard after more than 43 hours of racing.

IN PICTURES: Scenes from the 2010 Tour de France

Evans’ meltdown

One of the main favorites to win this year's Tour, Team BMC’s Cadel Evans, suffered an epic meltdown today.

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