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Calzati wins Stage 8; Honchar keeps Tour lead

7/9/2006

LORIENT, France -- On World Cup final day, France's Sylvain
Calzati gave the nation a reason to start celebrating by winning
stage eight of the Tour de France -- only to say he was cheering for
Italy's soccer team.

Calzati's father is Italian, his mother French -- a tricky mix
given that the two nation's soccer squads were playing Sunday in
Berlin.

"I am going to disappoint quite a few people, but it is a good
omen for Italy, I hope," Calzati said when asked whether his first
Tour victory could presage a win for Les Bleus.

"I am for the Italians. I am perhaps going to set France
against me, but I have chosen my side."

Calzati, who was born in the southeastern French city of Lyon,
was the second French rider to win a Tour stage this year, after
Jimmy Casper took stage one.

Calzati, of the AG2R squad, broke into tears after he crossed
the finish line Sunday, winning with a solo ride ahead of the main
pack. Serhiy Honchar of Ukraine was in that main pack and held onto
the overall race lead. American Floyd Landis also was part of that
pack and remained second overall, 1 minute behind Honchar.

"I feel like I'm living a dream," said Calzati, who moved up
to 37th overall. "It's really magic."

He finished 2 minutes, 5 seconds ahead of Kjell Carlstrom of
Finland, a rider for the Liquigas squad. Another French rider,
Patrice Halgand of Credit Agricole, was third in the same time.

Landis, who was 37th in the stage, and Honchar, who was 100th,
both finished 2:15 behind Calzati.

Calzati's win, in 4 hours, 13 minutes, 18 seconds, came a few
hours before France played Italy in the World Cup soccer final in
Berlin. And it came a day after Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo won the
women's title at Wimbledon.

Calzati was among a group of riders that broke ahead of the main
pack about an hour into the 112-mile hilly stage from
Saint-Meen-le-Grand to Lorient on the Atlantic coast of Brittany in
northwest France.

With about 20 miles left, Calzati shook off the other riders in
his small group and rode on alone to the finish. As he neared the
line, he gave a high-five to a member of his team who pulled up
alongside in a car.

Monday is the first rest day, with no racing, of the three-week
Tour. The race resumes Tuesday with a flat stage from Bordeaux to
Dax in southwest France, and then heads the next day into the
climbs of the Pyrenees.