Victory is sweet for van Bon
Desbiens retains overall lead; Cipollini withdraws from tour
Posted: Monday July 20, 1998 04:16 PM
PAU, France (CNN/SI) -- Leon van Bon of the Netherlands powered his way to front of a four-man breakaway group to win the 210-kilometer (130-mile) ninth stage of the Tour de France from Montauban to Pau in a time of five hours 21 minutes and 10 seconds.
In soaring temperatures reaching 104 degrees van Bon outsprinted Germany's Jens Voigt for first place, Italy's Massimiliano Lelli finished third and Frenchman Christophe Agnolutto fourth.
Due to the heat and two days of mountain stages coming up, most of the favorites conserved their strength, allowing lesser riders to vie for the stage victory.
Meanwhile, Laurent Desbiens of France who missed the tour two years while suspended for six months after he tested positive for the steroid nandrolone retains the overall leaders yellow jersey when he finished with the pack 12 seconds behind van Bon.
Desbiens is not expected to retain the lead in the mountains. The Frenchman finished nearly four hours behind defending champion Jan Ullrich in last year's final standings, placing 127th.
In other stage news Italy's Mario Cipollini with about 20 kilometers left in the stage got off his bike and climbed into a Saeco team car. Cipollini who won the fifth and sixth stages in this years tour for a career eight stage victories in the tour. Cipollini has never finished a tour always dropping out before the racing reaches the mountains.
Erik Zabel holds onto the best sprinters green jersey.
The 10th stage on Tuesday covers 123 miles from Pau to Luchon and features four major climbs. Then comes another stage in the mountains with five more big climbs.
Last year, Ullrich took control in the Pyrenees and never lost the lead. For the moment, he is fifth (3:21 behind) but he still has large margins over his major rivals.
Bo Hamburger of Denmark is 1:18 behind Ullrich in sixth, with American Bobby Julich seventh in the same time as Hamburger.
Desbiens' drug background has fueled the fire surrounding the controversy that continues to overshadow the race.
First, Festina's team director Bruno Roussel was detained by police for questioning along with the team doctor after the team masseur Willy Voet was detained by French customs officials who found over 400 vials of drugs in a team car he was driving. Roussel and Ryckaert were then moved to Lille for further investigation.
Tour officials decided to expel the Festina team from the three-week race Friday after Roussel admitted supplying performance-enhancing drugs.
Roussel, Ryckaert and Voet are still in police custody and are expected to appear in court July 24.
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