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Saturday, July 8, 2006
Honchar wins Stage 7 time trial; Landis second

ESPN.com news services

RENNES, France -- Serhiy Honchar won a time trial Saturday to become the first Ukrainian to take the race leader's yellow jersey in Tour de France history, and American Floyd Landis placed second in the stage to move into second place overall.

Serhiy Honchar
Serhiy Honchar will be changing colors for the next stage, moving into the leader's yellow jersey.

Honchar, a T-Mobile rider and a former world time trial champion, was by far the strongest rider in Saturday's 32-mile race against the clock. He finished more than a minute ahead of Landis. Sebastian Lang of Germany was third.

Honchar finished in 1 hour, 1 minute, 43 seconds. It was his first stage win in three Tours, though he has won five time trials at the Tour of Italy. Landis was 1 minute, 1 second behind Honchar, and Lang was a further 3 seconds back.

"It's the best day of my life after the world championships," said Honchar. "It's quite unexpected for me."

A handlebar problem forced Landis to change bikes during the stage, but he was pleased with his ride.

"I got beat fair and square," he said. "It looks good for the rest of the race, but there's a long way to go. We'll take it one day at a time."

Aside from Landis, a former teammate of seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong, it was a disappointing day for other top Americans.

Levi Leipheimer placed 96th, more than 6 minutes behind Honchar. Another former Armstrong teammate, George Hincapie, was 24th, trailing Honchar by 2:42.

And American Bobby Julich crashed, losing control of his bike while negotiating a bend during the long time trial. Julich, who finished third in 1998, was taken to a hospital after hitting the ground hard and slamming into the curb. He was almost motionless on the road for a few moments before he was helped to the side.

X-rays showed he broke a bone in his right wrist, Team CSC team spokesman Brian Nygaard said. Julich also tore his shorts and suffered scrapes. He will undergo surgery Saturday on cuts and abrasions on his right wrist.

The American also fell during a steep descent in a time trial at the 1999 Tour, fracturing his left elbow and breaking two ribs.

Team CSC already had lost its lead rider, Italian Ivan Basso, to doping allegations before this year's Tour began. Basso has denied any wrongdoing.

Honchar, who turned 36 last week, grabbed the front of the yellow jersey in delight after it was slipped onto his shoulders on the podium. He said it was the best day of his career since he won the world time trial title in 2000.

"It was totally unexpected. I did my maximum," he said through a translator on French television.

The win was the second at this Tour for the T-Mobile squad, which lost its leader Jan Ullrich and another rider to a doping scandal on the eve of the Tour start on July 1.

Six of the seven T-Mobile riders finished in the top 20. The highest placed Discovery Channel rider was Paolo Salvodelli of Italy in 19th.

"It's lucky Jan Ullrich is not here otherwise the Tour would be over," said Discovery Channel team manager Johan Bruyneel.

T-Mobile will likely to ride for Germany's Andreas Kloeden, who finished eighth on Saturday and is sixth overall, in the mountains. He finished second to Armstrong in 2004.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.