Pantani tastes the treasure
America's Julich snapping at Ullrich's heels
Posted: Wednesday July 22, 1998 03:55 PM
PLATEAU DE BEILLE, France (CNN/SI) -- Marco "Il Pirata" Pantani of Italy won the 11th stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday from Luchon to Plateau de Beille in a time of five hours, 15 minutes and 27 seconds after he broke away from Jan Ullrich's group on the final climb of 1,750 meters.
Wednesday's 170-kilometer (106-mile) route wended its way through the Pyrenees and had four major climbs -- the Col de Mente, Col du Portet-d'Aspet, Col de la Core and Col de Port.
Roland Meier of Switzerland, who had built up a lead of over five minutes during the day, finished second, one minute, 26 seconds behind Pantani.
America's Bobby Julich, who started the day one minute, 18 seconds behind overall leader Ullrich of Germany, finished third. This meant Julich cut into Ullrich's lead by seven seconds and solidified his position second overall.
The 26-year-old Julich from Glenwood Springs, Colorado said he is looking ahead to next week's three days in the Alps.
"I [have] got [to] lay it on the line in the Alps [for] one or two days to see if I can win this thing," Julich said.
He was 17th in his first tour last year. He showed he has improved by taking third in the time trial and fourth in the prologue as well as staying with Ullrich in the two stages in the Pyrenees.
"I felt very, very comfortable today," Julich said. "I felt stronger at the top. On a climb like today you have to be a little cautious and that's what I did today."
Ullrich had a flat with about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) left in the stage and was helped back to the pack with his teammates.
Pantani said he held off, honoring an unwritten rule not to take advantage of a situation like that.
"I wanted to attack earlier but waited for Ullrich to come back," Pantani said.
Once back, Ullrich worked his way through and then started increasing the pace to catch Meier.
As in Tuesday's stage, Ullrich had to do the work while the others followed.
Also as in Tuesday, Pantani took off in an attempt to gain ground. Ullrich let him go, knowing that Pantani trailed by nearly five minutes in the overall standings.
Pantani caught Meier with about six kilometers (4.5 miles) left and won his fifth stage of the Tour de France, all in mountain stages including two in l'Alped'Huez.
"The tour is like a game of chess," Pantani said. 'Right now the race is wide open and there are still spectacular things to come."
Pantani won the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) earlier this year but said he needed a break.
"After the Giro I had a lot of stress. I was tired, training didn't go well and I went into this tour not 100 per cent,"
Pantani said. "Now everything is possible."
After pacing the small group of chasing up the final climb, Ullrich relaxed a little and came in eighth on the day 1 minute, 40 seconds behind Pantani
Pantani and Laurent Jalabert of France are 3:01 behind Ullrich in the overall standings.
After a cool and foggy day on the first day in the mountains Tuesday, the hot temperatures returned with the heat well above 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) on the route.
In other stage news Spain's heir apparent to Miguel Indurain, Abraham Olano, who was one of the pre-race favorites, abandoned the tour halfway through the stage.
Olano, the former road world champion who finished last year's tour in fourth spot, started the day sixth overall, trailing Ullrich by three minutes and 11 seconds.
"He was suffering more and more with each kilometer and we decided to stop him," Banesto's team director Eusebio Unzue said.
Thursday is a rest day before the Tour resumes Friday with a 222-kilometer (137-mile) leg from Tarascon-sur-Ariege to Cap d'Agde as the Tour slowly makes its way across southern France before hitting the Alps on Monday.
It was the second day in the mountains but the the "King of the Mountains" for the last four tours, Richard Virenque, and his Festina teammates were absent. They are expected to be heard soon in a court in Lyon to explain their involvment in the doping scandal.
Festina's director Bruno Roussel admitted a practice of supplying illegal drugs with medical supervision to improve
performances which prompted Tour officials to exclude the top-ranked Festina team the rest of the way.
The doctor for the banned Festina team, Eric Ryckaert, contended that his riders were ordered by their manager to pay for performance-enhancing drugs.
The Dutch TVM team is also under suspicion. It was reported that the same drug used by the Festina team was found in the car of TVM officials in March.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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