CYCLING

Dogged Casar Wins His First Tour de France Stage

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sandy Casar crashed after hitting a spectator's dog but won the 18th stage of the Tour de France before home fans yesterday. Alberto Contador of Spain kept the overall lead as the race neared its weekend finish in Paris.

Casar scraped his hip in the crash but captured a Tour stage for the first time. He prevailed in a sprint among four cyclists who broke away from the main pack during the 131-mile ride from Cahors to Angouleme.

Casar, a 29-year-old Frenchman, pumped his right fist as he crossed the line in 5 hours 13 minutes 31 seconds. He was followed by Axel Merckx of Belgium and Laurent Lefevre of France.

"Finally! It's been a while that I've been waiting for this," Casar said. "I almost dropped out after the fall -- I didn't see it coming."

Tom Boonen of Belgium cemented his hold on the green jersey given to the race's best sprinter by leading the pack across the finish line, 8:34 after Casar.

With the race heading into today's crucial stage -- a 35-mile individual time trial from Cognac to Angouleme -- Cadel Evans of Australia gained three seconds against Contador in the overall standings as the pack split near the finish.

He trails Contador by 1:50 with two stages left until the finish tomorrow along the Champs-Elysees. U.S. cyclist Levi Leipheimer is third, 2:49 back.

"This yellow jersey is very important. It's important that I have it tonight," said Contador, who rides for Discovery Channel. "Tomorrow is the most difficult day of my career as an athlete. In this time trial, everything can change, my entire life can change."

Meanwhile, Alexandre Vinokourov has hired Maurice Suh, Floyd Landis's lawyer, to defend him on blood doping charges that resulted in his ejection from the Tour. ESPN.com also reported Howard Jacobs, another Landis attorney, was working on the case as well.

-- From News Services


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