German rider conquers Alps in Tour de France
Linus Gerdemann of Germany won Saturday’s seventh stage of the Tour de France to take the overall leader’s yellow jersey as the race entered the Alps.
Gerdemann won by speeding out from a group of breakaway riders during the 197km ride from Bourg-en-Bresse to Le Grand-Bornand, featuring a winding ascent up La Colombiere Pass, the first category-one climb this year.
Gerdemann, a professional since 2001, clocked 4:53:13. Inigo Landaluze of Spain was second, 46 seconds back, and David de la Fuente of Spain was third, 1:39 back.
The 24-year-old Gerdemann ended an eight-day streak in the yellow jersey of Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara, who finished 22:27 later. The main race favourites finished in a 35-rider bunch that was 3:38 back.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Gerdemann, who is riding in his first Tour.
“I don’t think I’ve ever ridden that fast ... today’s the biggest day of my career.”
Overall, Gerdemann leads Landaluze by 1:24 and De La Fuente by 2:45, and will wear the yellow jersey on Sunday for the second of three punishing Alpine rides. The 165km stage from Le Grand-Bornand to Tignes features six climbs—one an uphill finish.
Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov, perhaps the top pre-race favourite, rode through pain after crashing in Thursday’s stage. He has stitches in each knee and a large bruise on his right buttock.
After last year’s climb of the 16,1km La Colombiere ascent, 2006 Tour winner Floyd Landis tested positive for synthetic testosterone in the 17th stage. An arbitration panel is deciding whether Landis should be allowed to keep his title.
Gerdemann’s victory was likely to lift spirits at his T-Mobile team, who have taken heavy blows from doping revelations over the past year.
The team’s former star, 1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich, was disqualified from racing on the eve of the start of last year’s Tour after his name turned up in a Spanish blood-doping investigation. In recent months, several former riders from the Telekom team—T-Mobile’s predecessor—admitted doping in the 1990s.
“I want to thank all the TV viewers who follow the sport despite all the troubles that it is facing,” Gerdemann said. “We all have to fight for a clean sport, and show now that it’s possible to win clean.”
Fallout from doping in cycling continues to cloud this year’s race.
Tour officials confirmed on Saturday that Erik Zabel, a German rider with the Milram team, will no longer be considered the winner of the green jersey, awarded to the race’s best sprinter, in 1996.
Zabel, who won the green jersey a record six times, said in May he used the banned performance enhancer EPO for one week as a Telekom rider in the Tour that year, but never again.
His 1996 victory will be scratched from the Tour’s record books. But under the rules of cycling’s governing body, Zabel cannot be officially stripped of the prize because it happened too long ago.—Sapa-AP