Paulinho wins Tour's 10th stage
GAP, France -- Something finally went right for Lance Armstrong's squad at the Tour de France.
Team RadioShack got its first taste of success at this year's Tour when Sergio Paulinho of Portugal captured the 10th stage Wednesday, narrowly winning a two-man sprint among breakaway riders.
Andy Schleck of Luxembourg retained the yellow jersey. He finished in the main pack more than 14 minutes back, alongside his biggest rivals for the title.
Paulinho edged Vasil Kiryienka of Belarus over the sun-baked 111-mile trek from Chambery to Gap that featured one difficult climb -- the Laffrey pass -- as the race left the Alps.
Paulinho pointed skyward then sucked his thumb in honor of his 8-month-old daughter after beating Kiryienka by less than half a wheel. They both clocked 5 hours, 10 minutes, 56 seconds. Belgium's Dries Devenyns was third: 1:29 behind.
"This is a victory we've been looking for a while, after all the bad luck we had in the first week," Paulinho said. "I hope this victory gives morale back to our team."
It was the Portuguese rider's first individual stage win at the Tour, though he was part of the Astana squad -- including Lance Armstrong and 2010 Tour winner Alberto Contador -- that won the team time-trial last year.
Armstrong brought Paulinho and several other former Astana teammates to the RadioShack team, which was formed around the seven-time champion last year.
Armstrong fell out of contention in the first Alpine stage on Sunday after getting tangled up in three crashes and losing crucial minutes against the top contenders. The team is now banking on the podium hopes of Levi Leipheimer, who is sixth overall.
The 30-year-old Paulinho and Kiryienka, of Caisse d'Epargne, were part of a six-man breakaway made up of riders far back in the overall standings. The pack finished 14:19 behind Paulinho.
Paulinho and Kiryienka were part of a breakaway that took off around the 23-mile mark, and the pack didn't give chase. Even the winners clocked an average of 21 mph during the stage -- a relative snail's pace at the Tour.
The overall standings didn't change. Schleck leads Contador by 41 seconds, while Samuel Sanchez of Spain was third, 2:45 back. Leipheimer is 3:59 behind.
It was the 25-year-old Schleck's first day in yellow, and he said he noticed greater fan support on the side of the roads of southeastern France during his ride in the coveted shirt.
"My name was on some of the signs. It's nice to see that," he said, referring to handmade banners unfurled by spectators. "I'm getting popular even here in France."
Riders are likely to breathe a bit easier during Thursday's 11th stage, a mostly flat 114.65-mile route from Sisteron to Bourg-les-Valence that has one midgrade climb.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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