Kloden takes a tumble

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STAGE WINNER: Thor Hushovd of Norway waves from the podium after winning the fourth stage.
STAGE WINNER: Thor Hushovd of Norway waves from the podium after winning the fourth stage.

AUTUN (France): Germany’s yellow jersey contender Andreas Kloden gave his Astana team a scare by tumbling into a ditch during the fifth stage of the Tour de France on Thursday.

Kloden tumbled into a ditch at the left-hand side of the road, near the 107km mark of the 182.5km ride from Chablis to Autun, as the peloton continued their pursuit of a four-man breakaway.

The German, a runner-up in 2004 and who finished third in the race last year, lay briefly on the ground before getting back on his bike and continuing the stage. It was unclear whether he had sustained any injuries in the fall.

Lancaster abandons

Australian sprinter Brett Lancaster pulled out of the Tour de France during the race’s fifth stage.

Thor wins fourth stage

Meanwhile, Thor Hushovd of Norway won the fourth stage on Wednesday, and Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara kept the overall lead for a fifth straight day.

Hushovd won in a sprint at the end of the mostly flat 193-kilometre ride from Villers-Cotterets to Joigny.

“Everything took place superbly well,” said Hushovd, who finished in 4 hours, 37 minutes, 47 seconds for his fifth Tour stage win. “I’m too happy.”

Robert Hunter of South Africa was second, and Oscar Freire of Spain was third. They and the trailing pack, which included Cancellara, finished with the same time as Hushovd.

After the previous day’s desperate chase of a four-man breakaway had led to Cancellara’s shock win, the peloton were in no mood to endure a similar scenario.

In the latter stages, the bunch proved positively more alert as they chased down a five-man break which had formed at the 31.5km mark thanks to Frenchman Mathieu Sprick, whose attack prompted four other riders, including former stage winner Juan Antonio Flecha of Rabobank, to join in.

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