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TOUR DE FRANCE

Lance Armstrong still third in Tour de France; Luis Leon Sanchez wins eighth stage

Rinaldo Nocentini earns the leader's yellow jersey for the second straight day.

July 12, 2009|Lauren Goldman

Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong remains in third place in the Tour de France, after Spain's Luis Leon Sanchez won the eighth stage Saturday in a sprint ahead of three other breakaway riders.

Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy earned the yellow jersey for the second straight day by finishing in a pack with Armstrong and his Astana teammate Alberto Contador. Contador, the 2007 Tour winner, is six seconds behind, with Armstrong eight seconds behind.

Their teammate, Levi Leipheimer, is 39 seconds off the pace in fourth.

Sanchez, who won the Paris-Nice stage race in March, pointed skyward and tapped his chest after he crossed the line just ahead of France's Sandy Casar and Mikel Astarloza of Spain.

They clocked 4 hours 31 minutes 50 seconds for the 110-mile trek along three big climbs from the Pyrenean principality of Andorra to Saint-Girons.

The Tour ends July 26 in Paris, with the Alps, a final individual time trial and the dreaded Mont Ventoux awaiting.

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Quote of the day: "That would delight me if he were to win the Tour. He's really a friend of mine. . . . I'm not going to get into the polemic in their team about who can win between him and Armstrong." -- Sanchez, about fellow Spaniard Contador.

Next stage: The ninth stage today is the third and last in the Pyrenees before Monday's rest day. It will take the riders from Saint-Gaudens to Tarbes on a 100-mile ride featuring two big climbs, the Col d'Aspin and the Col du Tourmalet.

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-- Associated Press

Tarbes: Visited twice before by the Tour, in 2001 and 2006, this commune in southwestern France that lies on the Adour River will see the cyclists again. Tarbes is a town of equestrian tradition that started with Napoleon Bonaparte. He founded a riding academy there to train soldiers to be better horsemen. The passion for horses continues in this town, where the National Stud Farm is the birthplace of the Anglo-Arab horse. Another military figure associated with Tarbes is Ferdinand Foch, the commander in chief of the Allied forces in World War I, who was born there in 1851. The riders in the Tour average about the same speed of one of the wild horses one could find running in Tarbes, between 25 and 40 miles per hour.

-- Lauren Goldman

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