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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 July, 2005, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Pereiro sprints to victory in Pau
Oscar Pereiro takes victory
Phonak's Oscar Pereiro won the 16th stage of the Tour de France into Pau.

The Spaniard capped an aggressive day in the saddle with a sprint finish to hold off the challenge of Xabier Zandio, Eddy Mazzoleni and Cadel Evans.

The quartet had been out in front as the race left the mountains behind for the last time before a flat run in.

Lance Armstrong maintained his overall lead coming home in the third group on the road, three minutes and 24 seconds back, alongside all his major rivals.

While Pereiro took the honours on the line, Evans was the big winner on the final day in the mountains, climbing from 11th to seventh overall.

The Australian was in a group of 11 escapees having broken free of the main peloton after just 26km of the 180.5km stage from Mourenx.

It was a pre-planned decision following the death of his compatriot Amy Gillett on a training run in Germany during which another five national team riders were injured.

"The least I can do is to get in a break and try and dedicate the stage win to the entire Australian national team," he said at the start of the day.

"Words are never enough to express the sadness I felt after hearing the news of the accident."

He attacked on the punishing 16.5km climb of the Col d'Aubisque and was more than five minutes ahead of the peloton at the summit.

But one-by-one Pereiro, Mazzolini and Zandio joined him at the head of the race and they worked well together to open up a significant gap over the rest of the field on the road from the Pyrennes.

We still have almost a week and it's not over until it's over
Lance Armstrong

When their lead topped seven minutes Jan Ullrich's T-Mobile team pushed the pace at the front of the peloton to prevent Evans, a former T-Mobile rider, climbing too far up the rankings.

While they suceeded in cutting the advantage they could not prevent Evans from knocking Ullrich's team-mate Andreas Kloden out of the top 10.

The 28-year-old Davitamon-Lotto Tour debutant sacrificed a stage win for his position in the overall classification, stepping on the gas at the front of the group as they entered Pau.

Pereiro took advantage coming out of his slipstream for the victory.

He just held off his rivals on the line in a nailbiting finish to gain his first stage victory and make up for the disappointment of Sunday's mountain-top finish when he missed out to George Hincapie.

Hincapie helped ensure his Discovery Channel team leader Armstrong was equal to all attempted attacks on the Col de Marie-Blanque and the Col d'Aubisque.

"It's always nice to get through the mountains, especially the second set of mountains," Armstrong said.

"There were a lot of attacks with T-Mobile trying to take time out of Mickael Rasmussen but the team was strong and I was able to follow.

"The big difficulties are done and now we have to stay safe. I need to be careful with my food and diet and stay out of crashes. We still have almost a week and it's not over until it's over."

Stage result (Top 10)
1. Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak at 4:38:40
2. Xabier Zandio (Spa) Illes Balears at same time
3. Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) (Davitamon-Lotto
5. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Francaise des Jeux at 2:25
6. Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
7. Joerg Ludewig (Ger) Domina Vacanze
8. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Fassa Bortolo
9. Ludovic Turpin (Fra) AG2R
10. Cedric Vasseur (Fra) Cofidis

Overall standings (Top 10)
1. Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel at 66:52:03
2. Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC at 2:46
3. Mickael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank at 3:09
4. Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile at 5:58
5. Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears at 6:31
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner at 7:35
7. Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon - Lotto at 9:29
8. Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak at 9:33
9. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile at 9:38
10. Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole at 11:47

Report: BBC Five Live's Simon Brotherton



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