Tour de France - Schleck wins as Voeckler digs deep
The Leopard Trek rider broke clear with a magnificent solo attack on the Col d'Izoard, the penultimate climb of the demanding 201km stage from Pinerolo, before riding to glory on the highest ever summit finish in Tour de France history.
Frenchman Voeckler (Europcar) rallied to protect his yellow jersey by just 15 seconds - but the big loser of the day was reigning champion Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) who cracked on the legendary Col de Galibier to finish almost four minutes behind his rival Schleck.
Schleck moves into second place in the overall standings while his older brother Frank, who came second in the stage, completes the top three, one minute and eight seconds down on Voeckler.
Australia's Cadel Evans (BMC), who led the chase behind the Luxembourg stage winner throughout the final ascent, limited his losses with a third-place finish to keep his Tour hopes alive. Evans, a stronger time triallist than both Schleck brothers, is in fourth position in the GC at 1:12.
"Today is the best of my victories," said Schleck, twice runner-up in the Tour. "It was a dream for me to win here. When I looked at the course when it was unveiled, I knew I wanted to win this one. Now I'm ready for the yellow jersey. What I did today shows that I can take it."
The Schleck brothers' one-two was a tactical triumph for their Leopard Trek team, who placed two riders - Belgian Maxime Monfort and Dutchman Joost Posthuma - in the day's main break, which formed before the first of three "hors categorie" climbs on the Tour's hardest stage.
Attacking out of the 19-man breakaway, Kazakhstan's Maxim Iglinskiy crossed the summit of the Col Agnel - at 2,744m the highest point in the race - with a 45 second advantage over his fellow escapees, who in turn rode 5:30 ahead of the bunch.
But the decisive move of the day came 60km from the finish when Schleck caught his fellow GC riders out with an unexpected attack on the Col d'Izoard. With no one reacting from within the yellow jersey group, Schleck quickly built up a two-minute lead, catching his teammate Monfort just ahead of the summit.
Chasing lone leader Iglinskiy, the quintet stretched its lead on the peloton to four minutes in the final flat section ahead of the climb up to Serre Chevalier and the summit finish.
Once on the initial slopes of the Galibier, the leaders caught Iglinskiy before Monfort - his job of protecting Schleck on the descent done - dropped back along with both Silin and Devenyns.
Roche and Iglinskiy soon followed, leaving Schleck alone as he attempted to ride into the record books as the first stage winner atop the fearsome Galibier.
Behind Schleck a dispute was going on amongst the group of race favourites with no one seemingly prepared to lead the chase. Eventually Evans decided to take the bull by the horns - and the Australian's acceleration on the front saw the group blown apart, with Spaniard Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel), a stage winner in the Pyrenees, falling back.
Evans' pace setting saw Schleck's gap drop to below the three-minute mark as the 2010 runner-up rode under the "flamme rouge" one kilometre from the finish.
But Contador, who had seen the race doctor on the Col Agnel because of an on-going knee complaint, could not stay in touch.
A series of digs by Voeckler, who sensed he could save his yellow jersey just as he had done so heroically on Plateau de Beille back in 2004, saw the Spaniard slip further back behind, his dreams of a Giro-Tour double seemingly in tatters.
Schleck punched the air with both fists as he completed the gruelling stage in a shade under six hours and eight minutes. His brother Frank made it a family affair on the podium after an attack in the final 500m, finishing 2:07 down.
Evans took third at 2:15, Basso fourth at 2:18 and an exhausted but jubilant Voeckler took fifth, 2:21 down on the stage winner to protect his overall lead by a slender 15 seconds.
They say a picture says a thousand words - and that was indeed the case as reigning champion Contador crossed the line in the wheel of Belgian Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), the polka dot jersey, 3:50 down on his big rival.
Contador is now seventh in the GC, a huge 4:44 down on Voeckler with just two more decisive stages to ride.
Briton Mark Cavendish (HTC) retained his green jersey despite finishing outside the time cut-off. Cavendish was one of 89 riders who finished the stage 35:40 down on Schleck as the race organisers bent rules to avoid having to disqualify half the peloton three days away from the finale in Paris.
The Tour continues on Friday with a short but steep 110km stage from Modane to Alpe d'Huez before the crucial 43km individual time trial in Genoble on Saturday.