Perfect timing allows Heras to climb above Tour rivals

Roberto Heras gave an impressive display of explosive climbing to win the seventh stage of the Tour of Spain between Valencia and Morella yesterday.

Roberto Heras gave an impressive display of explosive climbing to win the seventh stage of the Tour of Spain between Valencia and Morella yesterday.

The Kelme rider showed why he is one of the Tour favourites by reeling in his fellow Spaniard Roberto Laiseka and the Frenchman Patrice Halgand, who had led the way in the last kilometre. A succession of riders tried in vain to break from the peloton on the winding finish to the top of the second category climb. But Heras bided his time before making his decisive attack.

In less than half a kilometre he opened up a 20-metre lead that gave him enough time to glance back at second-placed Halgand before crossing the line.

It was not such a good day for the Frenchman Bruno Thibout, who was forced out of the Tour after an accident involving a team car. Thibout was attempting to rejoin the peloton when he ran into the back of a Polti team car that braked suddenly to avoid a rider who had a puncture. Thibout broke his nose, lost some teeth and was taken to hospital suffering from concussion, the race doctor said. Italy's Alessandro Spezialetti was involved in the accident and also forced to retire.

Lance Armstrong, twice a winner of the Tour de France after coming back from cancer, won the Prince of Asturias Award for sports yesterday for his impressive career in cycling. He was chosen from among 36 candidates for the award, including the Cuban long-jumper Ivan Pedroso and the rowing teams of Oxford and Cambridge.

The Prince of Asturias Foundation gives the award to sports personalities who display excellence "both as athletes and as human beings".

An Olympic gold medal in Sydney would complete a remarkable comeback for Armstrong, who on Thursday admitted escaping with bruises after a head-on collision with a car. The 28-year-old American will be competing in his third Games and is favourite for the time trial title.

In 1992, the Texan was a virtual unknown when he finished 14th in the individual road race at the Barcelona Olympics. A year later he stunned his rivals by becoming world champion in Oslo. The Americans rejoiced in having a home favourite in the 1996 Atlanta Games but none of those watching Armstrong then realised that he was already suffering from the cancer which came close to killing him. He finished a disappointing 12th in the road race and sixth in the time trial before turning his attention to fighting the cancer which spread to his lungs and brain. After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, Armstrong returned to competition in 1998, and signalled his full return to health by winning the 1999 Tour de France.

Hein Verbruggen, the president of the International Cycling Union, is to head the evaluation commission for the 2008 Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee announced Friday. The 16-person commission will review the qualifications of the cities bidding to host the games. All five - Beijing, Istanbul, Osaka, Paris and Toronto - will be visited between February and April of next year. Other members of the commission include the pole vault world record-holder, Sergei Bubka, and representatives from the international federations governing field hockey, basketball and equestrian sports. For the first time, a representative of the International Paralympic Committee is also on the commission.

The IOC earlier this week eliminated five other countries which wanted to bid for the games.

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