Tue, Jul 17, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Rasmussen takes control of Tour

AP, TIGNES, France

Stage winner Michael Rasmussen of Denmark, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, waves from the podium of the 8th stage of the 94th Tour de France cycling race between Le Grand Bornand and Tignes, France, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AP

Michael Rasmussen won the eighth stage of the Tour de France on Sunday to take the overall lead in the race after a second day of grueling climbs in the Alps.

The Danish rider, the Tour's best climber for the past two years, crossed the finish line alone after the 165km run from Le Grand-Bornand to Tignes, which featured three Category 1 climbs and an uphill finish.

Rasmussen finished in 4 hours, 49 minutes, 40 seconds to win his third Tour stage and don the overall leader's yellow jersey for the first time in his four appearances. Iban Mayo of Spain was second, 2:47 behind, followed by Alejandro Valverde of Spain, 3:12 back.

Rasmussen took the yellow jersey from German rider Linus Gerdemann, who had won the seventh stage on Saturday. Rasmussen holds a 43-second lead over Gerdemann and a 2:39 gap over Mayo.

The ride into the Alps had been expected to offer an early shake-out among the favorites, but two time-trials and the Pyrenees also lurk down the road in the three-week race that ends on July 29 on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

"I'm a climber, and a pure climber," Rasmussen said. "If I have to go all the way, and take the yellow jersey all the way to Paris, I will have to climb faster than I have ever done in my life."

"There's still two more weeks of racing and I still have 110km of time-trialing to negotiate," he added. "And I think I've proven in the past that it's not exactly my specialty."

Most of the top riders stayed close to the overall lead, but contender Alexandre Vinokourov lost time as he continues to recover from knee injuries he sustained in a crash Thursday.

"The team was incredible today," Vinokourov said of his Astana teammates, who stayed with the Kazakh rider to keep him from losing too much time. "We tried to limit the damage."

"I'm holding onto hope," added Vinokourov, seen by many as the pre-race favorite.

He finished nearly four-and-a-half minutes behind Rasmussen and trails Rasmussen by 5:23 in the overall standings in 22nd place.

Among the favorites, Valverde is fourth overall, 2:51 behind the leader. Vinokourov teammate Andrey Kashechkin is 2:52 back, Cadel Evans of Australia trails by 2:53 and Christophe Moreau of France is 3:06 off the leader's pace.

It was a bad day for Gerdemann's T-Mobile team. The team's Australian leader, Michael Rogers, injured his shoulder in a crash and dropped out, as did British teammate Mark Cavendish, who crashed twice in earlier stages.

Australian rider Stuart O'Grady of Team CSC, who also crashed on Sunday, injured his back, quit the race, and was taken to a nearby hospital for tests.

Riders enjoy a rest day today before the last Alpine course, a 159.5km stage from the Val d'Isere ski station to Briancon, featuring the Iseran and Galibier passes, two ascents that are among the hardest in the three-week race.

? fan injured by rider

AP, TIGNES, France

An elderly man was in serious condition at a hospital on Sunday after being hit by German rider Patrik Sinkewitz after the eighth stage of the Tour de France, organizers said.

Sinkewitz was riding to his hotel after finishing the stage from Le Grand-Bornand to Tignes when he hit the 78-year-old man.

"While he was returning to his hotel, the T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz hit a spectator," Tour organizers said in a statement. "The spectator, who is in a very serious condition, has been taken to helicopter to a hospital near Grenoble."

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