Norwegian wins stage 17, Voeckler holds Tour lead
Updated: July 20, 2011, 12:42
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PINEROLO, Italy (AP) Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway won the 17th stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday, the first of three days in the Alps, while Thomas Voeckler retained the yellow jersey but lost time after riding off course on the final descent.
Defending champion Alberto Contador made repeated attempts to get away from his rivals, but was caught on each occasion. He finished in the same time as Cadel Evans, the Schleck brothers and Samuel Sanchez. Voeckler lost 27 seconds and is 1 minute, 18 seconds ahead of Evans.
Boasson Hagen completed the 111 miles across the Alps from Gap to the Italian town of Pinerolo in 4 hours, 18 minutes. Bauke Mollema of the Netherlands was second, 40 seconds back, with Sandy Casar of France winning the sprint for third.
Voeckler veered off the course at one point during the last descent, but didn't crash.
"It's a pity, because I saw that Contador, Evans and the Schlecks finished together. If I'd taken fewer risks, I would have finished with them,'' he said.
Contador was not downhearted by his failure to get away.
"I felt good, and you've got to try,'' he said. He didn't want to talk about the stages to come.
It was the second victory for Boasson Hagen and the fourth for Norway in this year's race.
"It was very difficult yesterday, and today I was able to do better,'' Boasson Hagen said. "I felt I was capable of attacking on the last climb.''
Mollema was second after Frenchman Jonathan Hivert crashed on the perilous final descent of the Pramartino. Hivert got back on his bike and came in ninth.
Boasson Hagen praised the large contingent of Norwegian fans that has been supporting him and Hushovd throughout the race.
"It's really great to see all the Norwegian flags and Norwegian people around the course. It gives some extra power.''
Evans becomes more of a favorite for the title with every day he keeps his advantage of nearly two minutes over Contador.
"With shadows and stuff it was real hard to see. Voeckler ran off the road in front of me - twice I think. It makes you take things more cautiously. You don't ever want to lose time to anyone,'' the Australian said. "I've got a good advantage over Alberto now, but Alberto has shown in years gone by what he can do when he's really at his top.''
Associated Press Writer Jamey Keaten contributed to this report.