Danish rider Michael Rasmussen won the 16th stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday, a 218.5 kilometres ride from Orthez to the Col de l'Aubisque.
Rasmussen second stage win of this year's edition saw him also extend his lead in the overall standings - he leads Spanish rival Alberto Contador by 3 minutes 10 seconds while third-placed Australian Cadel Evans lost more time as he is now 5:03 adrift. The Dane, impervious seemingly to the furore over his racing here because of missing four dope tests over the past two years, came home 24sec ahead of American Levi Leipheimer while Contador trailed in 35sec behind the stage winner.
Rasmussen admitted that he had opted to use a different strategy to the one he had used in Monday's 15th stage when Contador had given him endless problems by constantly attacking and trying to break his resistance.
"On Monday I was finding it tough to follow him," said Rasmussen, who according to French television was whistled and jeered by spectators at the start of the stage. "So I decided to use a different strategy today (Wednesday) and go at my tempo.
"It worked perfectly because he blew up."
Rasmussen added that he hoped now more Danes would believe he could see the task through and stand atop the podium in Paris on Sunday - a poll had suggested that a majority of those asked did not believe he would.
"Maybe some have changed their minds after this stage," he said. "I have over a three minute lead over Contador and I would look to extend that in Saturday's time-trial."
The stage had begun with a protest by eight teams, six French and two German, over their distaste for the persistent scandals over doping which saw Alexandre Vinokourov thrown out of the race on Tuesday after failing a test for blood doping - his team Astana withdrew after a request from the race organisers.
Spaniard Carlos Sastre had launched an attack from a long way out way out from the finish, along with compatriot Iban Mayo and king of the mountains leader Mauricio Soler.
They caught the early leaders but Sastre, who was continually the more aggressive of that trio, was reeled in on the final climb by Rasmussen, Contador, Evans and Leipheimer.
Contador did try and attack on several occasions of the climb but never succeeded in distancing himself from either Rasmussen while Leipheimer successfully came back to the other two 5km from the summit - however neither he nor the Spaniard had any answer to Rasmussen's final burst.
© AFP 2007
Also see: stage 16 live report.