'Il Ciclone', as the fans call him, blew into Wasquehal yesterday to win his fifth Tour de France stage justifying the confidence his team-mates had in him when they persuaded him not to retire at the beginning of the year. In all it was his 25th success in the Big Three tours of France, Italy and Spain.
His average speed, 47.801kph (29.876mph), for the 196 kilometres (122 miles) from Nogent- sur-Oise was the second fastest in the 79 years of the Tour, beaten only by the Belgian, Eddy Merckx, who 18 years ago completed a 112 kilometre (70 miles) leg to Orleans in 48.352 kph (30.22mph).
Bontempi raced away from the 10 leaders in the last five kilometres (three miles) to finish 30 seconds clear of Dimitri Konyshev on a day that brought Steve Bauer, of Canada, and Jens Heppner, of Germany, into the top five.
'It is always my aim to win a Tour de France stage, but I can no longer rely on my sprint for victories, so I have to make my efforts over a longer distance,' said the 32- year-old Bontempi. He might have had one more Tour stage win in 1987 but was declassified after a 'positive' drug test.
The favourites are biding their time to strike and yesterday this permitted a breakaway for the last 100 kilometres that gained nearly four minutes.
Bauer wore the leader's yellow jersey in 1988, and started yesterday six minutes and 12 seconds away from another fitting. Twice he tried to bring off victory. When his final attack was countered, Bontempi fired his shot, but Bauer was content. He had cut his own total time in half, and is now 3min 11sec behind the French leader, Pascal Lino.
There were anxious moments among followers of Miguel Indurain and Gianni Bugno, respectively first and second last year, and looking good for this Tour. Indurain fell when the chase was at its height, 18 kilometres (11.25 miles) from the finish, and Bugno's Gatorade team had to rescue their leader twice after punctures.
Among Bugno's helpers is Laurent Fignon, twice victorious in the Tour in his own right, but who is now working towards the triumph of another. Similarly, in the Banesto squad Pedro Delgado, the 1988 Tour winner, is giving a helping hand to Indurain.
In 1987 Stephen Roche gave Carrera success in the Tours of France and Italy, and won the world road race title. Now the Dubliner is back in their camp, aiding Claudio Chiappucci's cause.
For today's stage from Roubaix and into Belgium the Tour organisers brought in another winner, Merckx, to design the course.
The brief was to make it like a mini-classic, like a mini-Tour of Flanders, and Merckx, a winner of five Tours, responded. 'It will certainly test the likes of Indurain with its twists and turns, plus a few cobbles,' he said.
TOUR DE FRANCE Fifth stage (196km, 122 miles, Nogent-sur-Oise to Wasquehal): 1 G Bontempi (Carrera, It) 4hr 6min 1sec; 2 D Konyshev (TVM, CIS) +30sec; 3 O Ludwig (Panasonic, Ger) +36; 4 L Jalabert (Once, Fr); 5 B Cenghialta (Ariostea, It); 6 J Van de Laer (Tulip, Bel) all s/t; 7 F Maassen, (Buckler, Neth) +36; 8 S Bauer (Motorola, Can) +38; 9 O de Jesus Vargas (Amaya, Col) +39; 10 J Heppner (Telekom, Ger) s/t; 11 J Museeuw (Lotto, Bel) +3min 33sec; 12 E Vanderaerden (Buckler, Bel); 13 J Capiot (TVM, Bel); 14 A Van der Poel (Tulip, Neth); 15 W Nelissen (Panasonic, Bel) all s/t. Selected: 26 S Kelly (Irl) +3:33; 36 S Roche (Irl); 37 C Chiappucci (Carrera, It); 47 G Bugno (Gatorade, It); 63 G LeMond (Z, US); 67 M Indurain (Banesto, Sp); 76 R Millar (GB); 116 S Yates (GB); 123 M Earley (Irl) all s/t.
Overall: 1 P Lino (RMO, Fr), 22hr 44min 25sec. 2 R Virenque (RMO, Fr) +1min 54sec; 3 Bauer +3:11; 4 Heppner +4.37; 5 Bugno +5:06; 6 Chiappucci +5:20; 7 Roche +5:28; 8 D Jdanov (Panasonic, CIS) +5:31; 9 Indurain +5:33; 10 G Perini (Carrera, It) +5:35; 11 E Bouwmans (Panasonic, Neth) +5:40; 12 L Fignon (Gatorade, Fr) +5:49; 13 V Tebaldi (Gatorade, It) +5:54; 14. G LeMond +5:55; 15 Boyer (Z, Fr) +6:24. Selected: 25 Millar +6:47; 46 Kelly +9:33; 69 Earley +14:28; 131 Yates +26:31.Reuse content