Cadel Evans faces a rough ride in the next two weeks of the Tour de France if he is to defend the leader’s yellow jersey.

The Australian of BMC Racing took the top spot yesterday at the end of the race’s first high-mountain stage. He fended off early attacks from his main rivals, including Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas-Doimo) and eventual stage winner Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank).

Luxembourg’s Schleck played his cards wisely, though. He won the stage by 10 seconds over Evans and yet made sure he did not take the yellow jersey too early. He trails Evans by 20 seconds in the overall.

The jersey is one of the most prestigious tops in cycling, but it comes at a price: daily press conferences, doping controls and the responsibility of controlling the race.

“To get the yellow at the Tour de France is always something special,” said Evans today. “To swap the [World Champion] rainbow jersey for the yellow jersey is a rare honour.”

Evans, unlike two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador (Astana), does not have a strong mountain team. Yesterday, he was left with only Steve Morabito prior to the final climb up Avoriaz.

Now, with the yellow top, Morabito and Evans’ other six team-mates will be called on regularly to ride at the front and defend the lead. Their work starts tomorrow, after today’s rest day, with a mountain stage to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.

With Evan’s crash yesterday in the opening kilometres, he is taking his rest day literally. He rode for a few hours and then received physiotherapy for his sore left arm, injured in the crash.

“But my legs are still going,” added Evans, “which is the important thing right now.”

Tour de France 2010: Latest news

Tour de France 2010: rest day review (July 12)

Armstrong’s Tour de France dream ends

Sky’s objective clear ahead of Tour’s high mountains

The Feed Zone (July 10): Tour de France news and views

Thomas: ‘Yellow jersey would be unbelievable

Analysis: The role of Renshaw

Cavendish strikes back in Tour de France

Thomas happy with Tour’s white jersey; but says ‘All for Brad’

Wiggins crashes on Tour stage start

Cavendish and Farrar return to top

Cavendish keeps up fight for first Tour win

Sky delivers Boasson Hagen to third without pressure

Tour de France 2010: Stage reports

Stage seven: Chavanel wins stage and takes overall as Thomas drops out of Tour’s white

Stage six: Cavendish makes it two as Tour hots up

Stage five: Cavendish wins his first stage of Tour

Stage four: Petacchi wins into Reims

Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC

Stage three live coverage: As it happened

Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa

Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters

Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win

Tour de France 2010: Photos

Stage seven photo gallery

Stage six photo gallery

Stage five photo gallery

Stage four photo gallery

Stage three photo gallery

Stage two photo gallery

Stage one gallery

Prologue photo gallery

Tour de France 2010: Videos

Stage seven video highlights

Stage six video highlights

Stage five video highlights

Stage four video highlights

Stage three video highlights

Stage two video highlights

Stage one video highlights

Prologue video highlights

Tour de France 2010: Race guide

Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

Official start list, with race numbers

Brits at the Tour 2010

Tout team guide

Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins

Tour de France 2010: Pictures

Tour team presentation, Rotterdam

Tour teams take to the cobbles: Photo special