Rasmussen takes over Tour lead

The Danish rider won the eighth stage as has the lead for the first time.

TIGNES, France (AP) — Michael Rasmussen won the eighth stage of the Tour de France Sunday to take the overall lead in the race after a second day of grueling climbs in the Alps.

The Danish rider, the Tour’s best climber for the past two years, crossed the finish line alone after the 102.5-mile run from Le Grand-Bornand to Tignes, which featured three Category 1 climbs and an uphill finish.

Rasmussen finished in 4 hours, 49 minutes, 40 seconds to win his third Tour stage and don the overall leader’s yellow jersey for the first time in his four appearances in the race. Iban Mayo of Spain was second, 2:47 behind, followed by Alejandro Valverde of Spain, 3:12 back.

Rasmussen took the overall race leader’s yellow jersey from German rider Linus Gerdemann, who had won the seventh stage Saturday. Rasmussen holds a 43-second lead over Gerdemann and a 2:39 gap over Mayo.

“I’m a climber, and a pure climber,” Rasmussen said. “If I have to go all the way, and take the yellow jersey all the way to Paris, I will have to climb faster than I have ever done in my life.”

Spectator injured

After the race, a 78-year-old man was in serious condition in a hospital after being hit by T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz.

Race organizers said the German was riding to his hotel after finishing the stage when he collided with the fan. Sinkewitz received facial injuries and was also taken to a hospital.

The ride into the Alps had been expected to offer an early shakeout among the favorites, but two time-trials and the Pyrenees also lurk down the road in the three-week race that ends July 29 on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

“There’s still two more weeks of racing and I still have 110 kilometers of time-trialing to negotiate,” Rasmussen said. “And I think I’ve proven in the past that it’s not exactly my specialty.”

Most top riders in hunt

Most of the top riders stayed close to the overall lead, but contender Alexandre Vinokourov lost time as he continues to recover from knee injuries he sustained in a crash Thursday.

“The team was incredible today,” Vinokourov said of his Astana teammates, who stayed with the Kazakh rider to keep him from losing too much time. “We tried to limit the damage. I’m holding onto hope.”

He was nearly 41⁄2 minutes behind Rasmussen and trails Rasmussen by 5:23 in the overall standings in 22nd place.

Among the favorites, Valverde is fourth overall, 2:51 behind Rasmussen. Vinokourov teammate Andrey Kashechkin is 2:52 back, Cadel Evans of Australia trails by 2:53 and Christophe Moreau of France is 3:06 off the leader’s pace.

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