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Astarloza wins 16th Tour stage, Contador retains yellow jersey

MIKEL Astarloza of Spain won the 16th stage of the Tour de France yesterday, with Alberto Contador keeping the overall lead and Lance Armstrong clinging to second place.

Contador and Armstrong finished in the main pack behind Astarloza and other breakaway riders in the 159-kilometer ride from the Swiss town of Martigny to Bourg-Saint-Maurice.

The 37-year-old Armstrong retained his No. 2 spot overall after recovering to catch up with Contador after several attackers burst ahead in the second of two long Alpine climbs, which featured a downhill finish.

Contador, the 2007 champion, leads Astana teammate and seven-time champion Armstrong by 1 minute, 37 seconds and Bradley Wiggins of Britain is third, 1:46 back.

Astarloza produced a late surge to finish on his own ahead of seven riders who had broken away with him on the two big climbs of the day, the Grand Saint Bernard and the Petit Saint Bernard.

Frenchmen Sandy Casar and Pierrick Fedrigo were second and third.

It was the first Tour stage victory for the Euskatel-Euskadi rider, 29, who finished ninth overall in 2007.

On the second of three days in the Alps, most of the drama unfolded on the latter stages of the 22.6-kilometer climb to the summit of the Petit Saint Bernard.

As the Saxo Bank team of Andy Schleck drove the pace to try and eliminate some rivals the Luxemburger himself accelerated away from the yellow jersey group to force a first split.

Armstrong was left trailing but Contador, wearing the yellow jersey, was able to follow along with Wiggins, Frank Schleck, Vincenzo Nibali and Andreas Kloden.

The Schleck brothers attempted to toy with their rivals on the way up to the summit, but as Frank tired Armstrong launched a thrilling counter-attack which soon woke the Luxemburger from his slumber.

That seemed to be the end of the hostilities, however, as a group containing defending champion Carlos Sastre was able to make it back to Armstrong, Contador and the Schlecks before the summit.

There was one nasty incident as German veteran Jens Voigt - a teammate of Andy Schleck - took a terrible fall and according to some reports had to be taken to hospital.


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