Heppner wins first stage back in France
Hamburger takes overall lead after three stages
Posted: Wednesday July 15, 1998 06:10 PM
LORIENT, France (AP) -- The Tour de France returned to home ground Tuesday on its national holiday but Dane Bo Hamburger and American George Hincapie had their own celebration.
Hamburger took over the overall lead in the race on Bastille Day by two seconds over Hincapie, the American champion.
Both were in hunt as a small group of riders broke away to gain an advantage over the main group and set up a contest for the yellow jersey.
Hincapie came in third on the day, two seconds behind the stage winner Jens Heppner.
Heppner held off Xavier Jan of France in a final sprint after both had broken slightly away from the pack in the final stretch. Heppner spoiled the Frenchman's attempt to win a stage of Bastille Day on the 169-kilometer (105-mile) leg south through Brittany from Roscoff to Lorient on the west coast of France.
Hincapie, who is a member of the U.S. Postal team, was third on the day. But he participated in the breakaway and got a second in one of the bonus sprints. However Hamburger got two wins and a third in the three and gained 14 seconds compared to Hincapie's four to wrest the overall lead from him.
Hincapie was upset over the participation of Heppner and Jan in the pace-setting of the small group.
"The FDJ guy [Jan] and Telekom guy [Heppner] were sitting up all day," Hincapie said, meaning they were not pushing hard during the fast pace.
"With a sprint like that at the end it is different because everyone is so wasted except for those two other guys," Hincapie said.
If Hincapie would have won the stage, he would have gotten 20 bonus seconds, enough to put him first.
However he tired at the end.
"I cramped with about 10 kilometers to go. I floated in the back until my legs came back," he said.
That gave Hamburger the chance to get close enough to take the overall lead.
Hamburger was looking for the stage victory too but wasn't that disappointed.
"We're content with a consolation prize," he said meaning the leader's yellow jersey heading into Wednesday's fourth stage from Plouay to Cholet as the Tour heads slowly south to the Pyrenees.
The Tour de France tried to settle down after three hctic days and one hectic night in Ireland.
Britain's Chris Boardman won the prologue and held the leader's yellow jersey for a day before crashing out in Monday's stage to Cork. He remained in the hospital overnight before being released. He is recovering from a concussion with bruises and deep cuts.
The Tour is also recovering from the controversy involving the top-ranked French team Festina. A Belgian member of its staff remained jailed after having been arrested last week near the French-Belgian border in possesion of performance-enhancing drugs.
Late Tuesday the Festina team issued a statement saying they were astonished at recent press stories saying the man charged has changed his version of things.
According to judicial sources, after first admitting the drugs were for his personal use, the man charged said that he was under orders.
Festina officials denied those accusations and said that they had hired two lawyers to protect their image and riders.
Festina team director Bruno Roussel said he wants his version to be heard.
"I have then asked a judge or persons in authority to come to me so that I can explain how a team functions, comment we do our work so that the team can be able to work again quietly and do what they came here for, that is to win the Tour," Roussel said.
Monday night, 86 cyclists and team personnel flew to Brittany Monday evening in three chartered planes.
Most of the rest of the 3,500 persons following the Tour de France went overnight on ferries to land on French soil just around noon, just before the start of the state. The leg was the shortest of this year's Tour de France outside of the time trial.
The race finishes in Paris August 2.
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