ALPE D'HUEZ // Carlos Sastre replaced teammate Frank Schleck as leader of the Tour de France with a blistering ascent up Alpe d'Huez to claim stage 17 yesterday. The Spaniard, who had started the stage 49 seconds off the lead, broke at the base of the third hors-category climb of the day and briefly took Denis Menchov with him. But the Russian could not cope with the pace and fell back along with the rest of the rivals for overall race victory in Paris on Sunday as Sastre continued his solo path to the summit on roads packed with thousands of spectators.
The 33-year-old, whose best overall finish in the Tour was third in Paris, now boasts a one minute and 24-second lead over Schleck with four stages remaining. However, Sastre's major threat for the race win is Cadel Evans, who is 10 seconds further behind but more than capable of making up that time on the Team CSC Saxo Bank rider in Saturday's time trial. Evans was repeatedly attacked by Alejandro Valverde and the Schleck brothers on the final climb but gritted his teeth to reel in the attacks and finished the stage in seventh place.
The Alpe d'Huez stage also proved a day for the celebrities, with Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones among those at the finish. @Email:email@example.com