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By Andrew Hood
Russian veteran Alexandre Botcharov (Crédit Agricole) secured his first stage-race victory of his career Sunday while French attacker Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) claimed the finale in the 35th Tour Mediterranean.
Chavanel — who saw his 2007 season short-circuited when he was among the casualties on the Kemmelberg melee in Ghent-Wevelgem last April, which left him with 65 stitches and a triple-fractured wrist — looks back in good form with a solid win ahead of three fellow escapees.
The quartet, which also included Mathieu Perget (Caisse d’Epargne), Alianksandr Kuchynski (Liquigas) and Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff), had just enough to hold off the fast-charging peloton in the final 117km stage from Sauvian to Gruissan.
Chavanel managed to outwit Ignatiev and the rest of the break to snag his first win of the 2008 season.
“I didn’t crack under the pressure of the final kilometer,” Chavanel told AFP. “I knew that I was the fastest among my adversaries.”
Botcharov, meanwhile, finished safely in the main pack at 35 seconds back to secure his first success since turning pro in 2000. He won Friday’s climbing stage to Mont Faron and secured the overall victory ahead of David Moncoutie (Cofidis), with Michael Albasini (Liquigas) taking third.
1. Sylvain Chavanel (F), Cofidis, 2:41:20
2. Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus), Tinkhoff, s.t.
3. Alianksandr Kuchynski (Blr), Liquigas, at 0:26
4. Alexander Serov (Rus), Tinkoff, at 0:33
5. Thor Hushovd (Nor), Crédit Agricole, at 0:35
6. Jimmy Casper (F), Agritubel, s.t.
7. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr), Française des Jeux, s.t.
8. Anthony Geslin (F), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
9. Ronaldo Nocentini (I), Ag2r-La Mondiale, s.t.
10. William Bonnet (F), Crédit Agricole, s.t.
1. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus), Crédit Agricole, 14:27:08
2. David Moncouti? (F), Cofidis, at 0:45
3. Michael Albasini (Swi), Liquigas, at 1:08
4. Rinaldo Nocentini (I), Ag2r-La Mondiale, at 1:42
5. Massimo Giunti (I), Miche-Silver Cross, at 1:45
6. Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez (Sp), at 1:47
7. Ricardo Serrano Gonzalez (Sp), Agritubel, at 1:56
8. Leornado Bertagnolli (I), Liquigas, at 2:00
9. Amaël Moinard (F), Cofidis, at 2:09
10. Re?my Di Gregorio (F), Française des Jeux, at 2:10