Calzati wins Stage 8; Honchar keeps Tour lead

Updated: July 9, 2006, 6:16 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Sylvain Calzati
AP Photo/Vincent MichelSylvain Calzati of France won the eighth stage -- then revealed he was rooting for Italy in the World Cup final.

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.

Tour de France glance
Stage: The 112-mile eighth stage cut westward from the town of Saint-Meen-le-Grand through Brittany to the coastal city of Lorient.

Winner: France's Sylvain Calzati of the AG2R team in 4 hours, 13 minutes, 18 seconds. Liquigas rider Kjell Carlstrom of Finland was second, and France's Patrice Halgand of Credit Agricole placed third.

Yellow Jersey: T-Mobile rider Serhiy Honchar of Ukraine retained the overall lead Sunday, after winning the seventh stage time trial a day earlier.

Quote of the Day: "I am perhaps going to set France against me, but I have chosen my side" -- Calzati on his preference for Italy to win the World Cup final against France later Sunday.

Next stage: Monday is a rest day, before a mostly flat ninth stage along 105.3 miles across the southwest from Bordeaux to Dax on Tuesday.

-- The Associated Press

"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.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press