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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Schumacher reaches goal

Germany's Stefan Schumacher approaches the end of Tuesday's fourth stage. Associated Press
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Naomi Koppel Associated Press

CHOLET, France – Stefan Schumacher of Germany took the yellow jersey at the Tour de France and said everything else is a bonus.

He knows his early lead won’t last.

“Everybody dreams of this jersey,” Schumacher said Tuesday. “It’s incredible. The moment on the podium, you see it a thousand times on television, and to be there for yourself – you can’t imagine.”

Schumacher captured the first time trial in the three-week race, but the big winner in the fourth stage may have been Australia’s Cadel Evans. He gained more than a minute on his biggest challengers, a gap that will mean a lot when the decisive mountain stages arrive.

Schumacher finished the 18.3-mile individual trial in 35 minutes, 44 seconds. Kim Kirchen of Luxembourg and David Millar of Britain finished second and third, both 18 seconds back. That is also the order of the overall standings, in which Schumacher leads by 12 seconds.

He will probably hold the lead in today’s long, flat stage, but he is under no illusions about keeping the jersey.

“I didn’t come to win the Tour,” he said. “My goal was to wear the jersey one day and to win a stage. I reached this goal, so everything else is a bonus.”

That Schumacher is riding the Tour at all remains contentious. Stopped by German police for drunken driving in October, Schumacher’s blood sample tested positive for amphetamines. He has consistently denied taking drugs.

He wasn’t punished by cycling authorities because the use of the drug outside of competition is not considered to be an offense.

Belgian cyclist Tom Boonen also tested positive for a drug – cocaine – in an out-of-competition test. He was banned by Tour organizers, but Schumacher was allowed to ride.

Schumacher said he felt sorry for Boonen but does not see a parallel in the cases. He notes that he was not caught in a doping test.

“I was really not proud that I went into the car drunk,” he said. “I am a public personality and I also have to be an example for other guys. It wasn’t good for me, but I didn’t take drugs.”

Evans, last year’s runner-up, is in fourth place. He has a lead of 1:04 over his biggest challenger, 17th-place Alejandro Valverde of Spain, and a further 16 seconds over Carlos Sastre.

Two Americans are well positioned after excellent time trials. Christian Vandevelde is sixth, 41 seconds behind Schumacher. George Hincapie, the faithful lieutenant of seven-time champion Lance Armstrong, is one place and 6 seconds further back.