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Haussler storms to rainy Tour victory

HEINRICH Haussler of Germany won the rainy 13th stage of the Tour de France in a solo breakaway yesterday, and seven-time champion Lance Armstrong remained third overall.

Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy retained the yellow jersey following the chilly and wet ride from Vittel to Colmar. Nocentini, Armstrong and the main pack crossed nearly seven minutes behind the German stage winner.

Haussler, a 25-year-old Cervelo rider who won a stage in the Paris-Nice race in March, raced ahead of the second of two fellow breakaway riders within the last 50 kilometers to win the stage.

Haussler cupped his face in his hands and appeared to choke up with emotion as he finished -- 4 minutes, 11 seconds ahead of second-place Amets Txurruka of Spain. Brice Feillu of France was third, 6:13 back.

The German rider, who collected his first Tour stage victory, had come into the stage in 105th place overall -- 55:24 behind Nocentini.

Yesterday's 200-kilometer stage through the rolling Vosges hills of northeast France featured three big climbs, including the category-1 Col du Platzerwasel.

Armstrong remained in third place, eight seconds behind Nocentini. Astana teammate Alberto Contador, the 2007 Tour champion, is second, six seconds back.

Today's 14th stage will take the peloton to Besancon over 199 kilometers.

Yesterday's race started without Armstrong's teammate, Levi Leipheimer, who withdrew from the race after breaking his wrist in a crash during Thursday's stage.

Leipheimer, a four-time top-10 finisher at the Tour including a third place in 2007, was fourth overall, 39 seconds behind Nocentini.

Leipheimer and Armstrong have a close relationship within the team, which Armstrong says is riven by "tension" with Spain's Contador.

"He's a good friend of mine so it makes it even more unfortunate but that's cycling," Armstrong said of Leipheimer.

The loss of Leipheimer will affect Astana, Armstrong said.

"It's a big impact on the team," Armstrong said. "He's one of the leaders of the team. We're still in solid contention for the race. It can't help but have an effect.

"Now we have to move on and try to focus on what we have. It's unfortunate."

Astana sporting director Johan Bruyneel said the team was "definitely weaker" without Leipheimer "but I think we're still strong enough to control the race."

"All we have to do now is wait for the attacks and pay more attention, because obviously the other teams are going to be motivated by us losing one of our strong riders," Bruyneel added.

Meanwhile, Armstrong has had enough of early-morning random anti-doping tests on the Tour.

"You can't go and pull guys out of bed at 6am. If I came to your room at six in the morning, you'd throw the furniture at me," the seven-time champion said yesterday.

"When they wake us up, they wake us up. It's also the Tour de France and you can't wake up guys before a mountain stage at 6am," said the American.

"There is also a human aspect here. Enough is enough."

The 37-year-old also responded to comments made by French Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot, who said on Thursday that Astana riders had not been within direct sight of International Cycling Union controllers in a random test carried out in Andorra at the team's hotel.

"It seems there has been a bit of avoiding going on," Bachelot said without elaborating.

Armstrong said: "I actually think it's ridiculous. We have been controlled more than anybody else in the race. I would put up our biological passports up against anybody else's."

"I think it's slightly political. She knows that when makes those comments in the media or to the public they get attention. Perhaps it reinforces their commitment in the fight against doping.

"But again, we're never positive."

The Tour ends in Paris on July 26.


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