Spanish Sastre wins 17th stage of Tour de France

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The CSC rider may have won, but Austrian cyclist Evans remains in contention with his superior time trial skills.

24 July 2008

ALPE D'HUEZ - Carlos Sastre of Spain won the 17th stage of the Tour de France here on Wednesday, a 210km ride from Embrun to here.

The CSC rider - who beat home compatriot Samuel Sanchez while Andy Schleck was third both 2minutes and three seconds in arrears - also took the overall leader's yellow jersey off team-mate Frank Schleck, who he leads by 1 minute 24 seconds.

The battle for control of the race ahead of Saturday's crucial time trial over 53km came down to the third and final 'unclassified' climb of the day, the 13.3 km climb to the legendary Alpe d'Huez.

While Sastre gained a deserved victory after attacking early on the imposing climb, Australian rider Cadel Evans can still dream of winning the race thanks to his superior time trial skills.

The Aussie - who trails Sastre by 1min 34sec - fought manfully to limit the damage all the way up the climb in a group that included Frank Schleck and his brother Andy, who had no interest in helping out Evans reel in Sastre.

Sastre gradually built up his lead from 23sec with 9km to go to over 2min but he may regret losing valuable seconds as he overdid the celebrations with metres to go.

After crossing the first major climb, the Col du Galibier, together the peloton containing all the race favourites was shaken up by the CSC team's bid to eliminate a few of their challengers on the more difficult Croix de la Fer.

At 29.9km long with an average gradient of five percent, it is considered a tough ascent. But it became even more demanding when Stuart O'Grady, then Fabian Cancellara upped the tempo at the front for CSC.

Cancellara's long pull at the front was an exercise in pain for the likes of Evans and his fellow contenders, all of whom however managed to hold on to come over the summit next to the yellow jersey of Frank Schleck.

It also appeared to have the effect of tiring out some of Schleck's CSC teammates, as well as closing the advantage some early escapees had on the yellow jersey bunch.

A four-man break had escaped early on and held a lead of 7min 20sec on the bunch at the foot of the Croix de Fer.

By the time Cancellara had pulled off to allow Ukrainian teammate Volodymir Gustov to take a relay around 7.5km from the summit, that deficit had almost been halved.

Only Milram rider Peter Velits managed to resist the onslaught of the yellow jersey group, which came over the summit of the Croix de Fer 1:10 behind the ambitious young Slovakian.

Seconds after crossing the summit, Frenchman Jerome Pineau surged out of the group in a bid to close the gap and eventually caught the former under-23 world champion with around 30 km to race.

As they raced to the foot of the Alpe d'Huez in a bid to build as much of a lead ahead of the famous 21 hairpin bends, CSC - bolstered by the return of Cancellara - once more took control of the chasing peloton.

The Danish outfit were six-strong as they raced to close the gap to the frontrunners, who at the foot of the tough 13.3km climb had barely a minute's lead on the bunch.

[AFP / Expatica]

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