TARBES (France): Former French champion Pierrick Fedrigo won yesterday’s 160km ninth stage of the Tour de France as the main contenders kept out of the action before a first rest day in Limoges.
Fedrigo, 30, outsprinted breakaway companion Franco Pellizotti of Italy, who had gone with him and two other riders 12km into the stage. Spaniard Oscar Freire beat off the main bunch to snatch third place.
“First there were four of us, then three, then two and then I won. Now it’s nothing but happiness,” said Fedrigo, who also won a stage in 2006.
His victory was the second this Tour for Bouygues Telecom following Thomas Voeckler in Perpignan.
Italy’s Rinaldo Nocentini will keep his yellow jersey until tomorrow at least after not coming under attack on the two big climbs of the day.
Alberto Contador is still second overall, six seconds behind, and seven-time champion Lance Armstrong third, a further two seconds adrift.
Nocentini’s AG2R team-mates and those of Astana’s Contador and Armstrong controlled the peloton at a reasonable pace throughout the stage.
“I was hoping to keep the jersey until the rest day at Limoges because my wife is coming to see me and I really wanted to greet her in the yellow jersey,” Nocentini told reporters.
“Now I hope to keep it as long as possible, if possible until the Alps,” he added.
With so little going on in the big climbs on the day’s menu, a brief move by Armstrong was one of the most exciting moments of the stage.
At 24km, the American jumped on his pedals and raised the tempo so abruptly it was first thought he was attacking. But Armstrong, who came back from retirement in January, was simply taking his share of the Astana teamwork to bring the pack back on a group of early escapees.
With a long 70km descent towards the finish line, the two classic climbs of the day were not expected to make a big difference. On the first category Col d’Aspin, at 60.5 km, the main Tour contenders were content with watching one another while fugitives Jens Voigt of Germany, 2005 French champion Fedrigo and Pellizotti built a solid lead of around three minutes.
The Tourmalet did not make much more difference. Pellizotti, who finished third in the last Giro d’Italia, and Fedrigo dropped Voigt but none of the big names budged.
In the descent, Dutchman Laurens Ten Dam tumbled down the ravine but escaped unhurt.
Back in the valley, the last 40km turned into a typical flat stage with the peloton chasing hard behind the two escapees to try and bring the sprinters spared by the climbs in for a mass finish. But a puncture to Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck broke the main pack’s momentum and the pair retained a 34-second lead on the line, when Fedrigo overpowered Pellizotti. — Reuters