Sanchez wins seventh stage of Tour |

Sanchez wins seventh stage of Tour

Naomi Koppel
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Luis-Leon Sanchez of Spain reacts as he crosses the finish line to win the seventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Brioude and Aurillac, central France, Friday July 11, 2008. (AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)

AURILLAC, France ” Luis-Leon Sanchez of Spain won the seventh stage of the Tour de France Friday, moving ahead with 21/2 miles to go and holding on for the victory.

Kim Kirchen of Luxembourg retained the yellow jersey as the overall leader after Friday’s windy stage of 99 miles from Brioude to Aurillac in the Auvergne.

Caisse d’Epargne’s Sanchez was part of a group of four riders that broke away before the major climb but was caught toward the end of the race.

The Spaniard slipped away again at the end and this time was able to hold on. Sanchez finished six seconds ahead of a large group led by former yellow jersey Stefan Schumacher of Germany and Filippo Pozzato of Italy. Kirchen was fourth.

The 24-year-old Sanchez dedicated the victory to his elder brother, Leon, who died in a quad bike accident three years ago.

His other brother, Pedro, is a professional soccer player with the Spanish team Levante.

“Whenever we do something outstanding, we dedicate it to my brother,” Luis-Leon Sanchez said.

The Tour favorites all rode close to the front of the main group and came in together. Despite attempts by several teams ” including CSC and Garmin-Chipotle ” to break the race apart, they could not be separated.

The big losers of the day were crash victim Damiano Cunego, the 2004 Giro champion, and fifth-place finisher David Millar of Britain. Each came in 33 seconds behind the winner. Sylvain Chavanel of France lost the polka-dot jersey for best climber to David de la Fuente of Spain, who was part of the four-man breakaway.

There was no change at the top of the overall standings, where Kirchen leads Cadel Evans of Australia by six seconds and Schumacher by 16. Millar dropped to seventh.

“I was very, very calm from the beginning,” Kirchen said. “I had very good legs and recovered well from yesterday. I had a very good team. It gave me a lot of confidence, we controlled very well in a stage that has many climbs.”

Christophe Moreau, a French rider with the Agritubel team who was briefly in contention for victory last year, was one of several cyclists to pull out of the Tour during Friday’s stage.

Also Friday, the French anti-doping agency said that blood tests carried out before the start of the Tour have shown abnormal results for about 20 cyclists, but none was above the official limits.

“Around 20 riders have results a little high, right on the limit,” Philippe Sagot, deputy secretary-general of the agency, told The Associated Press. He did not identify the riders involved.

“There are no infractions, but some figures are very close to the limit, particularly as regards the level of hematocrit,” Sagot said.

A high hematocrit level is an indicator of possible blood doping, but not proof of it.

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