Hushovd wins last stage before rest day

 

Norway's Thor Hushovd claimed the 168-km eighth stage victory at the Tour de France today while Lance Armstrong eased into the second week in ideal position.

The short ride on the rain soaked and bumpy roads of Brittany between Lamballe and Quimper again crowned a strong finisher as the winner.

Norwegian champion Hushovd had finished on the podium twice in the beginning of the Tour and even held the race leader's yellow jersey for one day.

Hushovd beat Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen and German veteran Erik Zabel in the tough last stretch to the finish line.

The first week belonged as planned to sprinters and to young promising riders like Frenchman Thomas Voeckler, who will keep his yellow jersey on Monday's rest day.

Five times champion Armstrong remains sixth 9:35 behind Voeckler. At this stage, Armstrong's challenge of becoming the first rider to win the Tour six times looks stronger than ever.

The American was involved in two crashes on Friday but escaped unhurt. Another crash marred Sunday's stage when a dog crossed the road as the peloton were riding past, sending a dozen riders on to the tarmac.

Armstrong has already seen off two of his most serious rivals, Iban Mayo and Gilberto Simoni, who lost too much ground to remain in contention when the serious battle starts.

Fellow-American Tyler Hamilton was also involved in a pile-up on Friday and hurt his back. But he remains Armstrong's toughest opponent along with German Jan Ullrich, who was unseen and unheard of for a week, a perfect situation for a potential Tour winner.

Ireland's Mark Scanlon finished in the second group today 21" behind the leaders and is now in 55th position overall.