Cavendish Wins Again, but Evans Keeps Jersey

Saturday, July 19, 2008

In a race thrown into turmoil by drugs, Britain's Mark Cavendish won a stage for the fourth time and Australia's Cadel Evans kept the yellow jersey yesterday as the Tour de France tried to recover from another scandal.

This was the second straight stage victory for Cavendish. Leading a group sprint, the Team Columbia rider beat Australia's Robbie McEwen by nearly two bike lengths in the hot and windy ride, with France's Romain Feillu third.

Evans retained the overall lead by finishing alongside his primary rivals in the main pack. He leads Frank Schleck of Luxembourg by one second and Christian Vande Velde of the United States by 38 seconds.

Italy's Riccardo Ricco on Thursday became the third rider to test positive for the banned performance enhancer EPO, prompting his Saunier Duval team to quit the race and fire him yesterday.

Saunier Duval also fired Leonardo Piepoli, an Italian who won the 10th stage, for "violation of the team's ethical code."

Ricco, the Giro d'Italia runner-up, won the sixth and ninth stages and was the biggest name among the three riders ousted from this Tour.

He was held overnight by police and released under judicial watch yesterday after French officials filed preliminary charges against him. He was ordered not to speak to anyone from his team.

French judicial officials cited him for "use of a toxic substance." Antoine Leroy, French state prosecutor for the town of Foix, said Ricco contested the claim that he had used EPO. A police search of a hotel room where Ricco had stayed turned up medical equipment, such as syringes, catheters and medical bags, but no doping products, Leroy said.

Ricco said he would see his lawyer today and was not surprised by the team's decision to fire him.

"It's the routine for the teams," he said. "That's what they have to do. I'll be back. I'll be back stronger than before."

-- From News Services

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