Gerdemann leaves peleton behind in Alps, wins Stage 7


LE GRAND-BORNAND, France -- Linus Gerdemann hadn't even
finished celebrating his first Tour de France stage victory before
sounding a loud drumbeat from the winner's circle: Races can and
should be won clean.

The 24-year-old German, riding in his first Tour, captured the
leader's yellow jersey as cycling's premiere event entered three
days in the Alps with Saturday's seventh stage.

Gerdemann's T-Mobile team has been scarred more than most over
doping revelations, and has responded in the past year by enacting
some of the toughest anti-doping policies in the sport.

Gerdemann clocked 4 hours, 53 minutes, 13 seconds. Inigo
Landaluze of Spain was second, 46 seconds back. David de la Fuente
of Spain was third, 1:39 back.

Overall, Gerdemann leads Landaluze by 1:24 and De La Fuente by
2:45, and will don the yellow jersey Sunday for the second of three
punishing Alpine rides. The 102.5-mile stage from Le Grand Bornand
to Tignes features six climbs -- including an uphill finish.

Gerdemann is the second rider to don the yellow jersey this
year, after Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara held it for the first
eight days. Cancellara finished 22:27 behind on Saturday.

In post-race news conferences on Saturday, Gerdemann used the
word "clean" at least six times. He spoke about blood tests he
had undergone. He decried the harm done by doping in the sport, and
said he understood fans have doubts.

"It's really hard for young riders to take the responsibility
now," Gerdemann said. "But the sport gave a lot to me in the past
-- and now I think it's the right moment to give something back."

It was a fresh voice at an event where many riders and staffers
refuse to discuss doping or get short-tempered even when the word
comes up -- saying they want to focus only on "the sport."

T-Mobile has sought publicly to stake out the high ground.

"I don't want to say that just T-Mobile is a clean team,"
Gerdemann said. "I think many, many teams realize that the
old-school way is not the way anymore -- but for sure, we have to
show the way more and more."

The team's former star, 1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich, was
disqualified from racing on the eve of the start of last year's
Tour after his name turned up in a Spanish blood-doping
investigation. In recent months, several former riders from the
Telekom team -- as T-Mobile was formerly called -- admitted to doping
in the 1990s.

The team and Tour organizers are eager to hoist up young riders
like Gerdemann as potential harbingers of a new era.

"It's the fresh air we were hoping for, with a team that has
taken exemplary measures," Tour director Christian Prudhomme said.

The ride into the Alps has been expected to weed out the
potential favorites in the three-week race, but two time trials and
the Pyrenees also lurk down the road.

Gerdemann won by speeding out from a group of breakaway riders
during the 123-mile ride from Bourg-en-Bresse to Le Grand-Bornand,
featuring a winding ascent up La Colombiere Pass, the first
category 1 climb this year.

After last year's climb of the 10-mile La Colombiere ascent,
2006 Tour winner Floyd Landis tested positive for synthetic
testosterone after the 17th stage. An arbitration panel is deciding
whether Landis should be allowed to keep his title.

Two pre-race favorites -- Astana teammates Alexandre Vinokourov
of Kazakhstan and Germany's Andreas Kloeden -- made it through
another day nursing injuries from crashes during a frenzied stage
Thursday. Kloeden has a hairline fracture in his tailbone and
Vinokourov has stitches in both knees.

Other potential contenders for the 2007 Tour title -- including
American Levi Leipheimer, Australia's Cadel Evans, Alejandro
Valverde and Oscar Pereiro of Spain, and Russians Vladimir Karpets
and Denis Menchov -- didn't seek to exploit the Astana riders'
troubles Saturday. All favorites finished in a bunch of 35 riders
that was 3:38 back of Gerdemann.

The race is also picking up speed.

Despite the climbs, Gerdemann averaged 25.1 miles per hour, up
from an average of 24.8 mph by the stage winners in the first six
stages across flat terrain in northern France, Belgium and
southeast Britain. London hosted the Tour start for the first time.

Fallout from doping in cycling continues to hover over the race
this year. Tour officials confirmed Saturday that Erik Zabel, a
German rider with the Milram team, will no longer be considered the
winner of the green jersey, awarded to the race's best sprinter, in

Zabel, who won the green jersey a record six times, said in May
he used the banned performance enhancer EPO for one week as a
Telekom rider in the Tour that year -- but never again.

His 1996 victory will be scratched from the Tour's record books.
But under the rules of cycling's governing body UCI, Zabel cannot
be officially stripped of the jersey because the statute of
limitations for sanctions has expired.