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In Sports from United Press International

  |   July 17, 2002 at 3:26 PM
Tour de France marred by fatality

PAU, France, July 17 (UPI) -- France's Patrice Halgand gave his country its first Tour de France stage win Wednesday on a somber afternoon that saw a 7-year-old boy killed when he was struck by a car that was part of the event's publicity caravan.

The top of the overall standings remained unchanged on the eve of the first mountain stage with Igor Gonzalez Galdeano of Spain leading three-time defending champion Lance Armstrong by 26 seconds.

Wednesday's 147-kilometer ride took the competitors from Bazas to Pau, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, and it was filled with tragedy and controversy.

The fatality occurred in the village of Retgons, 26 kilometers from the start of the stage. Despite attempts by tour officials to warn of the dangers of the huge parade of fast-moving cyclists and motorists that make up the traveling carnival, there has been a long history of accidents.

A 12-year-old boy was killed two years ago.

There were also a number of newspaper reports Wednesday indicating Galdeano, who has worn the leader's yellow jersey since last week's team time trial, was among those suspected of taking a banned substance. Recent tours have been beset by drug problems. Halgand was part of a break that included as many as 16 riders and lasted for most of the stage. In the final five kilometers, Halgand stormed away from others in the group. He held on to cover the distance in 15 seconds more than three hours. He was 27 seconds ahead of countryman Jerome Pineau and 33 seconds ahead of Stuart O'Grady of Australia and Ludo Dierckxsens of Belgium.

The peloton finished three minutes, 57 seconds behind Halgand, but that did not affect the overall frontrunners.

Thursday's critical stage will take the riders to the mountain town of La Mongie, by which time Armstrong is expected to be in front. Although there has been speculation that Armstrong is not up to the form he displayed in winning the last three tours, chiefly because he finished second in Monday's individual time trial, he is still the overwhelming favorite.Armstrong leads third-place Joseba Beloki of Spain by almost a full minute and he has already opened significant gaps over the better climbers in the field.


Muirfield gives others a chance at British Open

EAST LOTHIAN, Scotland, July 17 (UPI) -- When Peter Baker, Des Smyth and James Kingston tee it up first Thursday at the British Open, they may even have a chance as they get ready to attack Muirfield Golf Links at the season's third major golf championship.

A links course on the shores of eastern Scotland that plays at just over 7,000 yards, Muirfield won't necessarily be dominated by the game's big hitters, unlike the first two majors of the season.

While no more than a half-dozen players were given a chance heading into The Masters and U.S. Open, some say as many as 75 have a chance this week.

"This will bring a bigger field into the equation much moreso than the U.S. Open or The Masters," added Davis Love III, who is grouped with Scotland's Colin Montgomerie and K.J. Choi of Korea at 8:57 a.m.

"There were guys like Nick (Faldo) who played their hearts out but just couldn't get there," Love said. "A course like this, he's one of the favorites."

Faldo has won the last two British Opens held at Muirfield, defeating Paul Azinger and Rodger Davis by a stroke in 1987 before edging John Cook by the same margin in 1992. He's back, and he's raving about the layout.

Some call Muirfield the best course in the British Open rotation. Others put it in the top three. Faldo said it's just special.

"It's still one of my favorite spots," said Faldo, a six-time major winner who will play with world No. 2 Phil Mickelson and Hal Sutton at 9:35 a.m.

Muirfield is typical in its links characteristics. The rough is thick, but the greens are quick, allowing players to be creative with their shots, often running them up to the greens.

"Because you get the chance to be creative, hit shots and run the ball on the ground," said tournament favorite Tiger Woods, who is seeking the third leg of the Grand Slam. "A lot of times, the yardages are just thrown out the door."

"The recipe to success in the Open Championship is very simple," said defending champion David Duval, who will play with Thomas Bjorn of Denmark and Japan's Shingo Katayama at 4:28 a.m. "Don't hit it in the pot bunkers and don't hit in the high stuff."

Where they go will depend on the weather. The first part of the week has been damp but calm. Potentially heavy winds are possible for the weekend.


Magic sign free agent Vaughn

ORLANDO, Fla., July 17 (UPI) -- The Orlando Magic on Wednesday signed free agent point guard Jacque Vaughn.

The Magic moved quickly on the first day of the free agency signing period to add Vaughn, who averaged 6.6 points and 4.3 assists in 82 games for the Atlanta Hawks last season.

Vaughn, 27, signed as a free agent with Atlanta last July after spending the first four years of his career stuck behind John Stockton in Utah.

Vaughn, 6-1, will probably back up Darrell Armstrong at point guard and play more than 20 minutes a game. That was the role filled by Troy Hudson, who is expected to draw plenty of interest in the free agent market after averaging 11.7 points last season.

Vaughn has appeared in 200 consecutive games, the eighth-longest active streak in the NBA. Last season, he scored a career-high 20 points in a March 31 game against Sacramento. A first-round pick of Utah in 1997, he has averaged 4.9 points and 2.9 assists in 15.9 minutes in 306 career games.



Red Wings promote long-time assistant Lewis to coach

DETROIT, Mich., July 17 (UPI) -- The defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings promoted long-time assistant Dave Lewis to coach Wednesday to replace legendary coach Scotty Bowman, who won a record nine Stanley Cup titles, including three with Detroit.

The 49-year-old Lewis started his coaching career as an assistant with the Red Wings in 1987 under Jacques Demers, followed by Bryan Murray and Bowman. He has no previous experience as a head coach, excluding a five-game stint at the start of the 1998-99 season that he co-coached with Barry Smith while Bowman recovered from surgery.

Despite waiting more than a month to name a coach, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland acknowledged that the decision on a coach was always between Lewis and Smith, a Red Wings assistant for the last nine seasons.

Smith will remain as an associate coach and former Red Wings player Joey Kocur was named as an assistant by Lewis.

With most of the key players back from last season, the Red Wings are expected to contend for another Stanley Cup title. The one major change will be in goal where free agent Curtis Joseph replaces the retired Dominik Hasek.

After a 15-year NHL career as a defenseman, Lewis primarily focused on the Red Wings' defensive corps as an assistant. His other duties included video work in scouting opponents.

Lewis played in 1,008 NHL games with the New York Islanders, Los Angeles, New Jersey and Detroit and had 36 goals, 187 assists and 953 penalty minutes.


Tkachuk accepts qualifying offer from Blues

ST. LOUIS, Mo., July 17 (UPI) -- Left wing Keith Tkachuk, one of the NHL's premier power forwards, has accepted a one-year qualifying offer worth $8.3 million from the St. Louis Blues.

The move was announced by Blues general manager Larry Pleau, who signed Tkachuk for the same amount he made last year and averted arbitration. However, the 30-year-old Tkachuk will be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2002-03 season.

The Blues acquired Tkachuk from Phoenix in March 2001 for three players and a first-round pick. The 6-2, 225-pound Tkachuk led the Blues with 38 goals this past season and was second to Pavol Demitra with 75 points.

A first-round pick of Winnipeg in 1990, Tkachuk has 329 goals and 302 assists in 652 NHL games and 26 goals and 21 assists in 69 postseason contests.


Pistons ready to sign G Chauncey Billups

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., July 17 (UPI) -- The Detroit Pistons apparently are ready to sign guard Chauncey Billups on the first day of the 2002 free agency signing period.

Teams have been able to negotiate with free agents since July 1. Last week, the Detroit Free Press reported that the Pistons had reached an agreement with the well-traveled Billups, who had been with the Minnesota Timberwolves and is coming off the best season of his five-year career.

Earlier this week, Timberwolves general manager Kevin McHale said that Billups would not be back with the team.

Billups, 25, averaged 11.9 points and a career-high 5.5 assists while playing all 82 games last season. Midway through the season, he replaced injured starter Terrell Brandon at point guard. He averaged 22 points in three playoff games.

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