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Saturday, July 18, 2009
Police seek teens in shooting


COLMAR, France -- Police are hunting for two teenagers after Tour de France riders Oscar Freire of Spain and New Zealand's Julian Dean were shot and slightly injured during Friday's stage, officials said on Saturday.

"This is the work of a pistol or an air gun," Colmar prosecutor Pascal Schulz told a news conference.

"According to one of the riders, [the shots] would have been the work of two youths aged between 16 and 17 who were hiding behind a tree."

Freire, from the Rabobank team, was hit in the right thigh by a small shot during the 13th stage from Vittel to Colmar but the injury did not hamper him.

Dean, part of the Garmin-Slipstream team, was hit on the index finger.

Both riders started Saturday's 123.7-mile stage to Besancon.

"It's past now, it's forgotten. I still have a little bit of pain but the team doctor told me it would not be any worse than the pain of riding for 200 kms," Freire said at the start of Saturday's stage.

"I suppose this is the sort of thing that can happen on a race which takes place in the middle of the public," he added.

Freire said he had been questioned by gendarmes at his hotel on Friday but had seen nothing of the incident.

"I just heard shots and my leg hurt as if I'd been stung by a bee," he said.

Dean said: "I'm always thinking about my safety up here on the roads but I don't have to think too much about it, I'll just try to stay focused on the race."

The two teams filed a complaint over the incident.

An investigation had been opened into a possible crime of voluntary violence with a firearm -- an offense that carries a three-year prison sentence and a fine of 45,000 euros ($63,600), officials said.