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Update from the Tour de France, stage 8

July 12, 2009

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At least one of the cyclists in the Tour de France has ties to Lawrence.

Bingen Fernandez Bustinza, a 14th-year Spanish pro who rides for the French Cofidis cycling team, is a regular offseason visitor to Lawrence. Last fall, he spent several weeks here visiting his girlfriend, Nikane Mallea. He participated in some of the regular group rides of the Lawrence Bicycle Club and developed a following among local cyclists.

Fernandez has agreed to file regular blogs from this year’s Tour. After eight stages, Fernandez is in 119th place out of 172 riders.

Saint-Girons, France — It was a nervous start today with a 30 kilometer climb from the start line.

No one talked through the neutral zone — the tension was thick. Everyone was trying to fight for the front positions which meant that there were attacks from kilometer zero.

This always happens when there is a climb at the beginning of the stage.

Today the peloton was broken into so many groups, but the attacks continued.

I was in the second group with about 20 riders, only 20 seconds behind the lead group. Our group worked well together — everyone worked hard on the front and we were able to catch them before the last climb.

So basically, we did 80kms at full throttle. Not bad.

As we started the second climb at a fairly decent pace up until the last few kilometers when the attacks started again.

And oddly enough, the same 20 riders were back together again. We had formed a gruppetto and had worked well together and knew that this would be the group we would finish with. On tortuous mountain stages like today one can find comfort in a small group.

Here’s the Associated Press report on the eighth stage of the race:

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. The 2007 Tour winner is six seconds back, with Armstrong eight seconds back.

Teammate Levi Leipheimer is 39 seconds off the pace in fourth place overall.

Nocentini almost lost his yellow jersey when the main race favorites left him behind in the last of the climbs. He credited an escort from his AG2R La Mondiale teammate Stephane Goubert for helping him catch up.

Two-time Tour runner-up Cadel Evans was among those to attack on the first climb, the Envalira Pass, at the 14.6-mile mark. He and others built a lead of about 2 minutes, but the Australian was reeled in after about 39 miles. Sanchez led a four-person breakaway toward the finish line. He looked skyward and tapped his chest after crossing just ahead of Sandy Casar.

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