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Spain's Sastre Wins 2008 Tour de France

Spain's Carlos Sastre won the 2008 Tour de France when he crossed the finish line on the Champs Elysees in Paris with the main pack in Sunday's final stage of the race.

Carlos Sastre of Spain rides past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

Carlos Sastre of Spain rides past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

In becoming the third Spaniard in succession to grab the Tour title, the 33-year-old Sastre finished 58 seconds ahead of last year's Tour also-ran, Cadel Evans of Australia. Austria's Bernhard Kohl finished third, 1:13 adrift.

Gert Steegmans of Belgium won Sunday's stage, showing the best finishing kick on the cobblestones of what Parisians call "the most beautiful avenue in the world."

Sastre grabbed the race leader's yellow jersey in Wednesday's 17th stage, with a bold solo attack that began at the foot of the gruelling 13.8-km climb to Alpe d'Huez.

He defended it, against expectations, in Saturday's 53-km individual time trial, losing only 29 seconds to Evans.

King of the Mountain

Carlos Sastre on the victor's podium

Carlos Sastre on the victor's podium during a previous stage

In addition to his suprising third-place finish, the 26-year-old Kohl also won the coveted King of the Mountains title.

Sastre's Team CSC teammate Andy Schleck of Luxembourg was crowned the Tour's best rider under the age of 25, while fellow Spaniard Oscar Freire won the title of best sprinter.

This year's race was notable for the absence of last year's champion, Alberto Contador, whose Astana team was barred from participating for past doping infractions.

Saturday's stage was primarily a coronation parade in honor of the winners. As a result, it took 3 hours 51 minutes 38 seconds to race the 143 kilometres from Etampes to Paris, a leisurely average speed of 37.04 kph.

Doping cases

The Tour was also marked by several doping cases, with Spaniards Manuel Beltran and Moises Duenas and the young Italian Riccardo Ricco booted from the race for testing positive for forms of the blood booster EPO.

Ricco's Saunier-Duval Italian teammate Leonardo Piepoli was also dropped by his team after reportedly confessing to having used a banned substance to win the 10th stage. This prompted the entire team to retire from the race.

On Sunday, July 27, the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) said Dmitriy Fofonov of Kazakhstan had tested positive for a banned stimulant after the 18th stage of the race.

Fofonov finished the Tour de France in 19th place overall.

But this year's race also packed plenty of exciting performances, none more explosive than the four stage wins recorded by Britain's Mark Cavendish.

The ease with which he dominated his rivals more than confirmed his claim to be the world's fastest sprinter.

Riccardo Ricco of Italy is led away by French gendarmes before the start of the 12th stage

Riccardo Ricco of Italy is led away by French gendarmes before the start of the 12th stage

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