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STAGE WINNER HITS DOG, CRASHES BEFORE FINISH LINE

Sandy Casar crashed after hitting a spectator's dog but won the 18th stage of the Tour de France before home fans Friday. Alberto Contador of Spain kept the overall lead as the doping-stained race neared its weekend finish in Paris.

Casar scraped his hip in the crash and went on to capture a Tour stage for the first time. He prevailed in a sprint among four cyclists who broke away from the main pack during the 131-mile ride from Cahors to Angouleme.

The 29-year-old Frenchman pumped his right fist as he crossed the line in 5 hours, 13 minutes, 31 seconds.

"Finally! It's been awhile that I've been waiting for this," Casar said. "I almost dropped out after the fall - I didn't see it coming."

Tom Boonen of Belgium cemented his hold on the green jersey given to the race's best sprinter by leading the pack across the finish line, 8:34 after Casar.

With the race heading into today's crucial stage, Cadel Evans of Australia gained three seconds against Contador in the overall standings as the pack split near the finish.

He trails Contador by 1:50 with two stages left until the finish Sunday along the Champs- Elysees. U.S. cyclist Levi Leipheimer is third, 2:49 back.

After Casar hit the dog, Evans rode into a female spectator at the finish line. Evans stayed on his bike and the fan was unhurt.

DOPING UPDATE: Alexandre Vinokourov has hired Floyd Landis' lawyer to defend him on blood doping charges that resulted in his ejection. Attorney Maurice Suh was in France and unavailable for comment, but his Los Angeles office said he was on the case for Vinokourov, who has denied doping.

FAST FACTS

Tracking the 94th Tour

Stage 18: The flat stage took riders on a 131-mile course from Cahors to Angouleme.

Winner: French rider Sandy Casar won his first stage - despite hitting a dog on the way.

Yellow jersey: Spanish rider Alberto Contador of the Discovery Channel team.

Today's stage: A time trial, 34.5 miles of flat roads from Cognac to Angouleme.

TV: 8:30 a.m., Versus.

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