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  Friday, 26 July, 2002, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Hushovd sprints to victory
Thor Hushovd (right) edges out Christophe Mengin
Thor Hushovd (right) edges out Christophe Mengin

Thor Hushovd won a thrilling sprint by half the width of a wheel to take the 18th stage of the Tour de France on Friday.

The Norwegian, the world under-23 time trial champion, handed his team, Credit Agricole, their first win of the 2002 tour by the narrowest of margins from Frenchman Christophe Mengin.

"I can hardly believe it," said Hushovd. "Everybody told me I had great abilities to recover and it's true.

"I was with the best in the mountains yesterday and today I won a stage.

"It's a good feeling to win for the whole team.

Early escape

"We have had so much bad luck this year and I hope this can be the turning point we need."

Hushovd and Mengin were among a 10-man group that broke away after just four kilometres of the 176.5km stage.

As it entered its final stages Hushovd, Mengin and Jakob Piil broke away from the rest but Piil's chances came to an end with 500m to go.

He tried to accelerate and his foot came off the pedal, allowing Hushovd and Mengin to battle it out for the stage win.

Big lead

None of the riders in the breakaway offered any threat to overall leader Lance Armstrong or the holders of the green and polka dot jerseys, Australia's Robbie McEwen and France's Laurent Jalabert respectively.

When the leaders went over the Col de Richemont, the highest point of the 18th stage, they were about eight minutes ahead of the peloton, and the main group never looked likely to reel them in.

Armstrong's US Postal team were content to set a steady pace at the front of the peloton and they led out the group sprint.

McEwen won the bunch sprint to finish 11th, more than 11 minutes behind the leaders, with Armstrong safely in the bunch.


Stage 18 results:

1 Thor Hushovd, Norway, Credit Agricole, 4 hours, 28 minutes, 28 seconds
2 Christophe Mengin, France, fdjeux.com, same time
3 Jakob Piil, Denmark, CSC-Tiscali, 5 seconds
4 Leon Van Bon, Netherlands, Domo Farm Frites, 33 seconds
5 Jorg Jaksche, Germany, Once, 33 seconds
6 Nicki Sorensen, Denmark, CSC-Tiscali, 33 seconds
7 Gian Matteo Fagnini, Italy, Telekom, 40 seconds
8 Erik Dekker, Netherlands, Rabobank, 40 seconds
9 Thierry Loder, France, AG2R, 40 seconds
10 Nicola Loda, Italy, Fassa Bortolo, 6:59

Overall Standings:

1 Armstrong, 77:30:35
2 Beloki, 5:06 behind
3 Rumsas, 7:24
4 Botero, 10:59
5 Jose Azevedo, Portugal, Once, 12:08
6 Gonzalez Galdeano, 12:12
7 Francisco Mancebo, Spain, ibanesto.com, 12:28
8 Roberto Heras, Spain, U.S. Postal Service, 12:54
9 Levi Leipheimer, United States, Rabobank, 13:58
10 Carlos Sastre, Spain, CSC-Tiscali, 14:49

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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Simon Brotherton
"Hushovd got his reward for perseverance"
Norway's Thor Hushovd
"I felt I was the strongest"
Green jersey holder Robbie McEwan
"This was the one stage that worried me most"
All the actiion from the world's greatest bike race

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