Moreau's disappointing day dashes French hopes of home-grown winner

Friday, July 20, 2007

Rasmussen maintained his overall lead against his main rivals.

MONTPELLIER, France -- As the Tour de France winds on toward the end of its second week, the stages are often more about the big losers than the big winners.

Count Christophe Moreau among the former and Robert Hunter among the latter.

Moreau had made the French believe that they might get a new home-grown winner at the Tour de France.

But that hope was dealt a serious setback in Thursday's 11th stage, when Moreau was dropped behind by a pack that was speeding like a runaway train and led by stage winner Robert Hunter of South Africa.

Overall leader Michael Rasmussen of Denmark kept up with the pack and his advantage didn't change against his main rivals -- except Moreau, who dropped to 14th place from sixth and whose deficit nearly doubled, to 6 minutes, 38 seconds.

"I think he definitely lost his chance of winning the Tour today," Rasmussen said of Moreau, almost gleeful over having one less challenger.

Hunter became the first South African to win a stage at the Tour, winning Thursday's sprint finish after the 113.4-mile route from Marseille to Montpellier.

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