Cycling: Indurain gearing up to take lead

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The Independent Online
CLAUDIO CHIAPPUCCI took on the Alps, the Tour de France, the dominant favourite Miguel Indurain, and demented fans for a magnificent solo victory in a race that lasted almost seven and three-quarter hours yesterday.

The Italian rounded the final corner in the Italian ski resort of Sestriere, blew a huge kiss with both hands, then threw his arms in the air to salute a lone ride over the final 131 kilometres.

Indurain inevitably took over the leader's yellow jersey by finishing third. He has a lead of 1min 42sec over Chiappucci with the Tour finale in Paris a week away. However, not even he could catch the diminutive Italian, as he closed on him in the final five kilometres of the last sapping climb to the finish. In fact he lost second place to another Italian, Franco Vona, with Gianni Bugno, considered the real Italian threat, fourth.

'I did not try to attack. I just followed the rhythm of the racing, and it worked well,' Indurain said. 'At one stage I realised Chiappucci could take the jersey, so it was time to do something.'

Yesterday Chiappucci resisted all, then had to run the gauntlet of over-enthusiastic Italian fans, who ran beside him, some wobbling dangerously close to their tiring hero. It seemed the biggest threat to his victory.

The Italian idol Fausto Coppi won the only other Tour finish at Sestriere 40 years ago, and for Chiappucci a second Italian triumph was important. 'If I could not win the Tour at least I could try to do something especially in Italy,' Chiappucci said. 'I do not know what will happen next. That is not important, but this victory is.'

For all but the first hour the Italian led his rivals over five climbs, including the 2,770m Col de L'Iseran mountain, the second highest in Tour history.

Chiappucci, seventh overnight, chased down two riders who had dared to attack him as they passed through Val d'Isere. He topped the Iseran with a lead of 3min 45sec over Indurain. It once rose to more than five minutes.

A below-par Greg LeMond, three times No 1 in the Tour, finished more than 49min behind the winner - about five minutes away from the time limit which would have resulted in him being eliminated from the race. Before the start, the American, fifth overnight, said: 'I know that I am beaten. I cannot follow the rhythm of Indurain, Bugno and the rest. I am so tired.'

TOUR DE FRANCE 13th stage (254.4km, St Gervais, Fr, to Sestriere, It): 1 C Chiapucci (Carrera, It) 7hr 44min 51sec; 2 F Vona (GMB, It) +1min 34sec; 3 M Indurain (Banesto, Sp) +1:45; 4 G Bugno (Gatorade, It) +2:53; 5 A Hampsten (Motorola, US) +3:27; 6 L Fignon (Gatorade, Fr) +5:51; 7 G-J Theunisse (TVM, Neth) +7:36; 8 P Delgado (Banesto, Sp) +7:51; 9 S Rooks (Buckler, Neth) s/t; 10 F Mauleon (CLAS, Sp) 7:53; 11 R Millar (TVM, GB) +8:17; 12 J Heppner (Telekom, Ger) +8:45; 13 E Breukink (PDM, Neth) +8:55; 14 G Rue (Castorama, Fr) +9:17; 15 J Unzaga (CLAS, Sp) +10:22. Selected: 18 S Roche (Carrera, Irl) +10.27; 55 S Kelly (Festina, Irl) +38:16; 80 M Earley (PDM, Irl) +40:19; 94 S Yates (Motorola, GB) s/t; 130 G LeMond (Z, US) +49:38.

Overall: 1 Indurain 63hr 34min 54sec; 2 Chiapucci +1:42; 3 Bugno +4:20; 4 P Lino (RMO, Fr) +7:21; 5 Delgado +8:47; 6 Roche +9:13; 7 Fignon +10:11; 8 Hampsten +11:16; 9 G Perini (Carrera, It) +12:43; 10 Heppner (Telekom, Ger) +13:11; 15 Millar +17:26. Selected: 41 LeMond +50:53; 44 Kelly +53:41; 79 Earley +1hr 24min 48sec; 80 Yates +1.25:22.