- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2008

ALPE D’HUEZ, France | Carlos Sastre of Spain won the 17th stage of the Tour de France, taking the overall lead Wednesday from CSC teammate Frank Schleck on the hardest ride up three huge Alpine climbs.

Sastre took the yellow jersey by speeding ahead of the main title contenders in the final ascent of the 130.8-mile ride from Embrun to L’Alpe d’Huez.

“I suffered a lot on the way to the summit, but I take great pleasure in capturing the jersey,” Sastre said through a translator. “A pure climber has to take advantage of his opportunities, and this was mine.”

Sastre, a five-time top-10 finisher at the Tour who also won a mountain stage in 2003, beat most of the other title contenders by more than two minutes. The 33-year-old Spaniard is riding in his eighth Tour, and this is his first yellow jersey.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said.

The stage was the last of three in the Alps. Riders will face a time trial Saturday that’s likely to determine the winner. Two mostly flat stages in the meantime aren’t likely to influence the leading bunch.

Cadel Evans of Australia remains a favorite to win the Tour, barring a crash or other mishap, because he is the best time-trial cyclist among the contenders.

Overall, Sastre leads Schleck by 1 minute, 24 seconds and Bernhard Kohl of Germany by 1:33. Evans is fourth, 1:34 behind. Among other strong time-trial riders, Denis Menchov of Russia is fifth, 2:39 behind, and Christian Vande Velde of the United States is sixth, 4:41 back.

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