Win in first time trial of Tour gives Schumacher overall lead

Updated: July 8, 2008, 4:40 PM ET
Associated Press

CHOLET, France -- Stefan Schumacher of Germany took the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, and now says everything else is a bonus.

He knows his early lead won't last.

[+] EnlargeStefan Schumacher
Lucas Gilman for ESPN.comStefan Schumacher finished the 18.3-mile Stage 4 time trial in 35 minutes, 44 seconds to take the yellow jersey as overall leader of the Tour de France.

"Everybody dreams of this jersey," Schumacher said Tuesday. "It's incredible. The moment on the podium, you see it a thousand times on television, and to be there for yourself -- you can't imagine."

Schumacher captured the first time trial in the three-week race, but the big winner in the fourth stage may have been Australia's Cadel Evans. He gained more than a minute on his biggest challengers, a gap that will mean a lot when the decisive mountain stages arrive.

Schumacher finished the 18.3-mile individual trial in 35 minutes, 44 seconds. Kim Kirchen of Luxembourg and David Millar of Britain finished second and third, both 18 seconds back. That is also the order of the overall standings, where Schumacher leads by 12 seconds.

He will probably hold the lead in Wednesday's long, flat stage, but he is under no illusions about keeping the jersey.

"I didn't come to win the Tour," he said. "My goal was to wear the jersey one day and to win a stage. I reached this goal, so everything else is a bonus."

That Schumacher is riding the Tour at all remains contentious. Stopped by German police for drunken driving in October, Schumacher's blood sample tested positive for amphetamines. He has consistently denied taking drugs.

He wasn't punished by cycling authorities because the use of the drug outside of competition is not considered to be an offense.

Belgian cyclist Tom Boonen also tested positive for a drug -- cocaine -- in an out-of-competition test. He was banned by Tour organizers, but Schumacher was allowed to ride.

Stage-by-Stage Results

Spaniard Carlos Sastre of the CSC team won the Tour de France in one of the closest finishes in the history of the 105-year-old race. A look at the stage-by-stage results:

Stage Miles Winner Overall leader
21 88.9 Gert Steegmans Carlos Sastre
20 32.9 (time trial) Stefan Schumacher Sastre
19 102.8 Sylvain Chavanel Sastre
18 122.1 Marcus Burghardt Sastre
17 130.8 Sastre Sastre
16 97.6 Cyril Dessel Frank Schleck
15 113.7 Simon Gerrans Schleck
14 120.9 Oscar Freire Cadel Evans
13 113.1 Mark Cavendish Evans
12 104.7 Cavendish Evans
11 104.1 Kurt-Asle Arvesen Evans
10 96.9 Leonardo Piepoli Evans
9 139.2 Riccardo Ricco Kim Kirchen
8 107.2 Cavendish Kirchen
7 98.8 Luis-Leon Sanchez Kirchen
6 121.5 Ricco Kirchen
5 144.2 Cavendish Schumacher
4 18.3 (time trial) Schumacher Schumacher
3 129.2 Samuel Dumoulin Romain Feillu
2 102.2 Thor Hushovd Alejandro Valverde
1 122.7 Valverde Valverde

Schumacher said he felt sorry for Boonen but does not see a parallel in the cases. He notes that he was not caught in a doping test.

"I was really not proud that I went into the car drunk," he said. "I am a public personality and I also have to be an example for other guys. It wasn't good for me, but I didn't take drugs."

Evans, last year's runner-up, is in fourth place. He has a lead of 1:04 over his biggest challenger, 17th-place Alejandro Valverde of Spain, and a further 16 seconds over Carlos Sastre.

Two Americans are now well positioned after excellent time trials. Christian Vandevelde is sixth, 41 seconds behind Schumacher. George Hincapie, the faithful lieutenant of seven-time champion Lance Armstrong, is one place and six seconds further back.

Tuesday's stage had seemed to be ideal for time-trial world champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, but he struggled and finished fifth.

"There was wind, there were a lot of things, but I don't know what it was," Cancellara said. "Others were quicker than me. That's how it goes. I can't change anything. I can only try and find what went wrong so I can make it better."

Romain Feillu of France entered the day with the yellow jersey but finished nearly five minutes behind Schumacher.

"I gave a lot yesterday, and I was very nervous today," he said. "I didn't have the strength."

Wednesday is the fifth stage -- the longest and flattest of the race -- and favors sprinters. The route takes riders 144 miles east to Chateauroux, setting them up for medium climbs of the Massif Central, beginning Thursday.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press