Sastre holds Tour lead; Chavanel gets long-sought stage win

Updated: July 25, 2008, 3:13 PM ET
Associated Press

MONTLUCON, France -- Carlos Sastre kept the Tour de France yellow jersey Friday, a day before a time trial that most likely will determine the winner of the three-week race in what the Spaniard calls the "opportunity of my life."

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
Sylvain Chavanel of France won the 19th stage after leading a two-man breakaway for his first stage victory. The Cofidis rider edged out Jeremy Roy of France at the end of the mostly flat 103-mile ride from Roanne to Montlucon.

The main title contenders finished in the main pack 1 minute, 13 seconds behind, and the top of the standings remained unchanged before Saturday's time trial. The Tour ends Sunday in Paris.

"Today was a day to recover. Tomorrow will be the opportunity of my life," Sastre said. "I'm calm, but I especially want to fight to defend my yellow jersey. I'm going to go all out."

The Team CSC leader has a 1:24 lead over Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, with Bernhard Kohl of Austria third, 1:33 back. Cadel Evans of Australia is fourth, 1:34 behind, and considered the best time-trial rider among the top four.

The time trial is a largely flat 33-mile ride from Cerilly to Saint-Amand-Montrond. Riders will set off one-by-one down a starter's ramp in a race against the clock.

They will ride in reverse order of the standings, meaning Sastre goes last. That will give him an advantage of seeing how riders fare and how he might need to adjust.

Sastre has finished in the top 10 five times at the Tour. He said Saturday's layout isn't all that different from past time trials, and he expects the usual "pain in my legs."

"The big difference is that I'll have the yellow jersey on my shoulders, and that will give me greater strength and more confidence," Sastre said.

The one big variable is the weather: The forecast is for cloudy skies throughout the day and possibly for stormy, windy conditions when the top riders set off.

"It's not really a very technical course, but there's always a little bit of danger (in rainy time trials)," Evans said. "The last time I rode in a rainy time trial, I did pretty well."

[+] EnlargeSylvain Chavanel
AP Photo/Christophe EnaSylvain Chavanel let his emotions flow after finally winning a stage in the Tour de France.
The top contenders were happy to let the French breakaway riders go in Friday's stage: Chavanel trails Sastre by more than 1 hour, 50 minutes, while Roy is more than 3 hours behind.

Chavanel broke down in tears the finish-line zone.

"My first thought when I crossed the line was for my best friend who committed suicide last year," he said. "He would have been happy for me. ... There's a lot of emotion today. I'm the happiest ever."

Damiano Cunego of Italy didn't start Friday's ride. The Lampre team leader, once considered a possible contender for the podium, crashed Thursday and badly injured his chin.

Christophe Brandt, a Belgian rider on Evans' Silence Lotto team, dropped out of the race because of pulmonary problems, the Tour's medical team said.

Three cyclists -- Juan Antonio Flecha of Spain, Romain Feillu of France and Fabian Wegmann of Germany -- didn't finish in the minimum time after the stage winner and were excluded for the rest of the race.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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