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Fedrigo wins 14th stage of Tour de France

7/16/2006

GAP, France -- Frenchman Pierrick Fedrigo won stage 14 of
the Tour de France on Sunday, while Spain's Oscar Pereiro kept the
overall lead.

Fedrigo, of the Bouygues Telecom team, beat Italy's Salvatore
Commesso at the line after they broke away from the main pack.
Pereiro and American Floyd Landis, who is second overall, both
finished in a group together, 7 seconds behind the winner.

"In the final stretch, I never looked back and let Commesso do
the work," the 2005 French national champion said of his first
stage win in four Tours. "It worked and I stayed concentrated on
the finish line. For me, it is pure happiness."

Pereiro's lead over Landis remained at 1 minute and 29 seconds,
with Frenchman Cyril Dessel third, 1:37 behind.

The 112-mile course ran from Montelimar to Gap, in the foothills
of the Alps, and the riders cycled under a scorching sun that
melted some of the pavement they were racing on. The hilly stage,
which featured two moderately hard hill climbs and two slightly
easier ones, was marked by a spectacular crash involving David
Canada and Rik Verbrugghe, which sent both to the hospital.

Verbrugghe broke his left leg and had a bad cut on his left arm,
while Canada broke his right collarbone, the Tour's medical service
said.

Fedrigo and Commesso were part of a group that broke away about
20 miles into the stage. The group was joined later by Canada, a
Spaniard with Saunier Duval, and Verbrugghe, a Belgian rider for
Cofidis. Together, the six riders built up a lead of 5:40. Because
the escape riders were not high in the overall standings, the pack
did not immediately give chase.

Then, about 25 miles from the finish, Verbrugghe and Canada lost
control of their bikes on a right-hand turn. German rider Matthias
Kessler plowed into Canada and cartwheeled over a safety barrier on
the side of the road. Kessler remounted and eventually finished the
stage.

The crash left Fedrigo, Commesso, and Belgian rider Mario Aerts
in the breakaway group.

Commesso and Fedrigo shook off Aerts with about 7 miles to go
and managed to hold off the main pack, which nearly caught them in
the final mile.

Fedrigo outsprinted Commesso in the last 200 yards for the
victory.

Fedrigo's stage win was the first at this Tour for the Bouygues
team. Fedrigo, whose grandparents were Italian, is the third French
rider to win a stage this year.

Team CSC rider Christian Vandevelde was third, 3 seconds behind
Fedrigo and Commesso, who rides with Lampre and finished in the
same time.

Monday is the three-week race's second and last rest day before
the Alps, which start Tuesday. Those mountains and the final time
trial on Saturday are expected to decide the outcome of the race.