Tour de France Heads Into The Hills For Fifth Stage

Thursday, July 12th 2007, 7:44 am
By: News On 6

CHABLIS, France (AP) _ The Tour de France is heading into the hills.

The fifth stage of the race began Thursday with Fabian Cancellara still in the overall lead, 29 seconds ahead of Thor Hushovd.

After the prologue and four flat stages, the 182.5-kilometer (113-mile) trek from the Burgundy town of Chablis to Autun features eight hills of varying difficulty, but nothing steeper than a category 2.

On Wednesday, Hushovd won his first stage victory since last year's finale on the Champs-Elysees despite an upset stomach.

``When a sprinter sees the finish line, he is capable of anything. Even when he is ill,'' teammate Christophe Le Mevel said. ``Sprinters are a breed apart.''

Hushovd, who won the green jersey as the Tour's best sprinter in 2005, beat Robert Hunter of South Africa and Oscar Freire of Spain, finishing in 4 hours, 37 minutes, 47 seconds.

``Everything took place superbly well,'' Hushovd said. ``I'm too happy.''

The race ended in Burgundy, home to some of the finest wines in France _ such as the crisp white Chablis.

``We said at the start of the stage that if we win, it's a Chablis,'' Le Mevel said. ``And if we lose it's a Chablis ...''

Andreas Kloeden of Germany, second to Lance Armstrong in 2004, is third overall.

Kloeden was among a batch of riders looking ahead to the weekend _ where the race could be thrown wide open after two straight days of Alpine treks featuring a total of four category 1 climbs, including three in a row Sunday.

Danish rider Michael Rasmussen, who has finished the past two Tours in the polka-dot jersey as King of the Mountains, thinks the field _ which is down from 189 to 185 riders _ will be cracked open further in the Alps.