Haussler wins 13th stage

Italys Rinaldo Nocentini keeps yellow jersey


Heinrich Haussler of Germany celebrates after winning the 13th stage of the Tour de France race on Friday. afp

The Australian-born Haussler crowned his best professional season with a stage win in Colmar after a long break during which he dropped his companions one by one to finish on his own.

With several tricky climbs, including the first category Platzerwasel 60 km from the finish, the stage looked a promising terrain for attacks.

But the favourites seemed content to stick together until the finish line and as a result, Italian Rinaldo Nocentini retained his six seconds lead over Alberto Contador of Spain.
"It was a hard day as we lost 20 degrees in 24 hours. Nobody took any risks with the rain and I managed to keep my jersey," Nocentini told reporters.

Seven-times champion Lance Armstrong, who looked very fit in the day's climbs, stayed third, two seconds behind his Astana team mate.

Cervelo team rider Haussler, winner of a Paris-Nice stage and runner-up in the Tour of Flanders and Milan-San Remo this season, finished four minutes 11 seconds ahead of Spain's Amets Txurruka, who chased behind him in the last two climbs.

France's Brice Feillu, winner of the seventh stage in Andorra, was third, 6:13 adrift, closely followed by the main pack.

"It's a big, big day for me," said Haussler. "I was lucky in spite of the bad weather or perhaps because of it.

"When I realised in the last kilometre I was going to win, I told myself 'don't crash'. It was lots of emotions."

Armstrong and Contador's Astana team were missing a key element in their effort to quash attempts by rivals after Levi Leipheimer quit in the morning with a broken wrist suffered in a crash near the finish line of the previous stage in Vittel.

But the Kazakh-based team never really had any work to do as their rivals decided to save some energy for the first stage in the Alps at the weekend.

"The day ended better than we expected," Astana team director Johan Bruyneel told reporters.

"We expected attacks by the Schlecks (Andy and Frank) or Cadel Evans. They did not take place. But days like this don't favour big attacks. It was cold and everyone was tired," he said.

Saturday's 199-km 14th stage takes the bunch to Besancon before the first stage in the Alps on Sunday.

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