Kroon wins eighth stage

Posted: Monday, July 15, 2002

PLOUAY, France -- Karsten Kroon led a Dutch sweep of the top three spots in the eighth stage of the Tour de France on Sunday, and three-time champion Lance Armstrong remained in eighth place in the overall standings.

Spain's Igor Gonzalez Galdeano retained the yellow jersey of overall leader, finishing with the main pack 1 minute, 55 seconds behind Kroon.

Armstrong finished in the same time as Gonzalez Galdeano and was 34 seconds off the lead in the overall standings.

Kroon, of the Rabobank team, covered the 134.9-mile run through Brittany from Saint-Martin-de-Landelles to Plouay in 4 hours, 36 minutes and 52 seconds. He finished just ahead of compatriots Servais Knaven, of the Domo Farm Frites team, and teammate Erik Dekker.

Kroon, making his debut in the Tour, earned his first stage victory.

''I'm normally not very emotional, but I just can't hold back the tears after this win,'' Kroon said. ''I'm really moved.''

Kroon spoiled hopes of a French victory on the national Bastille Day holiday. Last year, CSC-Tiscali rider Laurent Jalabert of France won the stage on July 14.

Gonzalez Galdeano, who has held the yellow jersey for four days, said it would be ''a dream'' to maintain the lead after Monday's ninth stage, a 32.2-mile individual time trial from Lanester to Lorient.

''I'm going to try to have a good time trial -- I'm against the best racer out there,'' he said.

Armstrong is favored to win the stage.

World road champion Oscar Freire dropped out of the Tour earlier Sunday. Freire, who won this year's second stage, injured his tailbone in a crash on Saturday.

''I decided it was probably better not to take the start today,'' the Spaniard said.

Tests showed Freire did not break any bones, but he said he had trouble sitting.

Another crash Saturday cost Armstrong 27 seconds and dropped the Texan from third to eighth in the overall standings. Armstrong wasn't injured and his bid for a fourth straight title remained unscathed.

He won last year's Tour with a lead of 6:44.

''In this business, you always worry about falls or an incident, and for me, it's the first time in four years that it's happened on the Tour de France,'' Armstrong told French sports daily L'Equipe. ''But we avoided the worst.''

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