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Former French champion Fedrigo takes 9th stage

FORMER French champion Pierrick Fedrigo won the 160.5 kilometers ninth stage of the Tour de France, from St Gaudens to Tarbes yesterday.

His breakaway companion Franco Pellizotti of Italy was second while Spaniard Oscar Freire outsprinted the main bunch to snatch third place.

Italian Rinaldo Nocentini retained the leader's yellow jersey. Astana's Alberto Contador stayed second overall six seconds adrift with teammate Lance Armstrong third, two seconds further back, after none of the favorites attacked in the stage's two climbs.

The riders rushed from the finish to Tarbes' airport to catch their flights to Limoges for the race's first rest day today.

Fedrigo, national champion in 2005, and Pellizotti were the last remaining riders of a break launched after 12km in the final stage in the Pyrenees.

"At first we were four, then three, finally two and then I won. It's a great moment of happiness," said the 30-year-old, who won a Tour stage in 2006.

German Jens Voigt, Columbia's Leonardo Duque, Fedrigo and Pellizotti broke from a group of early fugitives before the first ascent.

Seven-time champion Armstrong surprised the pack with a sudden acceleration after 24km that helped catch the riders dropped from the breakaway but Nocentini followed as the bunch swiftly regrouped.

The leading quartet reached the foot of the Col d'Aspin with a 4:50 lead over the peloton and quickly dropped Duque.

A group of nine, including Spain's Egoi Martinez, Frenchman David Moncoutie and Contador's best man at Astana Sergio Paulinho, counter-attacked in the ascent, catching and dropping the struggling Voigt.

In the ascent to the Col du Tourmalet, all the favorites stayed quiet behind Nocentini's AG2R La Mondiale team mates, who set the pace.

Dutchman Laurens Ten Dam of the Rabobank team, who was in the chasing group, crashed early in the descent.

He remounted his bike with scratches on his back and but was caught by the peloton, which had Rabobank and Caisse d'Epargne setting the pace on the flat final part to set up a mass sprint.


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