Voeckler assumes lead in Tour de France

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SAINT-FLOUR, France - Spain's Luis Leon Sanchez won the ninth stage of the Tour de France on a wild day of crashes, while France's Thomas Voeckler finished second to take the leader's yellow jersey from Thor Hushovd.

Among those caught in the mayhem was defending champion Alberto Contador, who overcame another crash, banging his troublesome right knee after an early spill.

"I had a problem with my handlebars, which knocked into another rider's saddle," Contador said after safely completing the stage in 12th place. "It pushed me toward the spectators on the side, and I went into them and the bike hit me on the right knee again."

Sanchez moved into second place overall, followed by Australia's Cadel Evans.

Veteran Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov fractured his right thigh bone and withdrew after crashing near the halfway point of the 129-mile route from Issoire to Saint-Flour in the Massif Central.

Spain's Juan Antonio Flecha was hit by a car later on, and took down Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland with him as he flew sideways off his saddle. Both got up and kept riding.

Voeckler once defended the yellow jersey for nine days during the 2004 Tour, but he could not match Sanchez.

"These are good times. I wouldn't have bet on taking the yellow jersey today," Voeckler said. "Time passes and I appreciate this one even more."

NINTH STAGE

SAINT-FLOUR, France - A brief look at Sunday's ninth stage of the Tour de France:

Stage: A 129-mile crash-marred stage from Issoire to Saint-Flour. Veteran Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov was caught in a massive pileup in a descent and had to pull out with a fractured thigh bone. Spain's Juan Antonio Flecha was hit by a car late in the stage, taking down Dutch rider Johnny Hoogerland with him. Both continued to ride.

Winner: Spain's Luis Leon Sanchez, following a long breakaway in the mountains of Massif Central. Sanchez beat Frenchmen Thomas Voeckler and Sandy Casar, by five and 13 seconds, respectively.

Yellow Jersey: Voeckler, who took the overall lead from Thor Hushovd, of Norway. Voeckler, who is not considered a contender for the title, leads Sanchez by 1 minute, 49 seconds. Cadel Evans, of Australia, is third overall, 2:26 off the pace.

Where's Contador? The three-time winner banged his right knee after an early spill. He is 16th overall, 4:07 behind Voeckler.

Next stage: Today is a rest day. Tuesday's 98-mile stage will take riders from Aurillac to Carmaux. The course features hills but no major difficulty.

- Associated Press


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