Tour de France : Italy's Bontempi Sprints to Victory in 7th Stage

From Times Wire Services

Guido Bontempi of Italy won the seventh stage of the Tour de France Tuesday in 5 hours 8 minutes 17 seconds, and Switzerland's Erich Maechler kept the overall lead.

The pack of cyclists finished the 131-mile stage from Epinal to Troyes together, leaving the overall classifications practically unchanged.

In the first sprint finish of this 74th Tour de France, Bontempi, of the Carrera team, outpaced Manuel-Jorge Dominguez of Spain. The Spaniard placed second, and Dutchman Jean-Paul Van Poppel was third. All three had the same time.

Bontempi bumped with Sean Kelly of Ireland on the final sprint but held on to win the stage.

"I wanted to win a stage of the Tour de France and for me, it's better to try it before we reach the mountains," said Bontempi, a sprint specialist who won three stages in last year's Tour.

"(Carrera teammate) Stephen Roche worked for me up to the last kilometer, and then I took care of the rest myself. Kelly says I bumped him with my shoulder, but that's an old story among sprinters."

Maechler, of the Carrera team, retained the yellow jersey with an overall time of 22:19:06, 36 seconds ahead of Frenchman Chistophe Lavainne.

Tour favorite Roche remains 5 minutes 41 seconds behind. American Andy Hampsten, who won the Tour of Switzerland, is 7 minutes 22 seconds off the pace.

The pack continued the fast pace established on the first stage Thursday, with numerous breakaway attempts on the mainly flat stage through east France.

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