Cycling: Ludwig stakes a claim: Tour de France

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The Independent Online
THE yellow jersey of Tour de France leader may rest securely with Miguel Indurain, but the tussle for the green jersey is only just gathering speed. Olaf Ludwig charged into Montpellier yesterday to open his quest for the colours that denote the most consistently highly placed rider by beating the present standard- bearer, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov.

The German held off his great rival to move within 15 points of him, displacing the Frenchman Laurent Jalabert as chief challenger. Elsewhere in the Tour there was little disturbance.

After the Alpine stages, Abdoujaparov unexpectedly found himself back in the green jersey he last wore as he was carried from the Champs Elysees in 1991, a victim of his own erratic sprinting style.

The Italian Mario Cipollini bore the colours until he was eliminated for failing to beat the time deadline at the ski resort of Isola, and the Belgian Wilfried Nelissen, second-in-line to the throne, abdicated the same day when the going got too tough for legs built for flat racing.

So Abdoujaparov is set to duel throughout the final week with Ludwig whose string of honours include 1992 World Cup winner, via victory in the Amstel Gold classic and second in the Paris to Roubaix cobbled classic. Ludwig was also 1988 Olympic road race champion, and took his second Tour sprint victory last year in Paris where in 1990 he won the green jersey.

After two fourth and two sixth placings in the first four days of this Tour, Ludwig knew that the mountains would soften his foes. 'I have improved since the Alps. In the first week I could not beat Abdoujaparov and Cipollini, but I knew my rivals would not be so strong after the climbs.'

Forty men finished 14 seconds clear of the majority of the field, and the biggest loser was Poland's Zenon Jaskula who, along with Alvaro Mejia of Colombia, is one of the unexpected contenders for the yellow jersey. He was in the second group to arrive in Montpellier but held his overall third place. Tony Rominger, his left knee bandaged from Friday's spill, strengthened his grip on the mountain climber's category but has still the test of the Pyrenees before he can be certain of the red polka dot jersey.

After his fourth placing at Marseilles, Valerio Tebaldi must have eagerly anticipated a return to Montpellier, scene of his 1989 Tour victory. The Italian arrived by ambulance, however, after breaking his collarbone in a spill.

Earlier, signs of more recent conflicts were evident with flags and pennants of blue and white, the colours of Olympic Marseille, being waved defiantly as the advance convoy quit the city to a cacophony of sirens and whistles.

TOUR DE FRANCE 13th stage (182km, 113-mile, Marseille to Montpellier): 1 O Ludwig (Ger, Telekom) 4hr 13min 10sec; 2 D Abdoujaparov (Uzb, Lampre); 3 J Museeuw (Bel, GB-MG); 4 G Fidanza (It, Gatorade); 5 F Moncassin (Fr, WordPerfect); 6 L Jalabert (Fr, ONCE); 7 F Simon (Fr, Castorama); 8 C Capelle (Fr, GAN); 9 U Raab (Ger, Telekom); 10 J Nijdam (Neth, WordPerfect); 11 J Skibby (Den, TVM); 12 L Brochard (Fr, Castorama); 13 C Chiappucci (It, Carrera); 14 J Talen (Neth, TVM); 15 M Indurain (Sp, Banesto) ; 36 S Roche (Ire, Carrera); 38 S Yates (GB, Motorola) s/t; 60 R Millar (GB, TVM) +14sec Overall standings: 1 Indurain 58hr 42min 29sec; 2 A Mejia (Colom, Motorola) +3min 23sec; 3 Z Jaskula (Pol, GB- MG) +4:31; 4 T Rominger (Swit, CLAS) +5:44; 5 B Riis (Den, Ariostea) +10:26; 6 A Hampsten (US, Motorola) +11:12; 7 C Chiappucci (It, Carrera) +14:09; 8 V Poulnikov (Ukr, Carrera) +14:35; 9 E Breukink (Neth, ONCE) +15:08; 10 P Delgado (Sp, Banesto) +15:46; 11 O Rincon (Colom, Amaya) +21:31; 12 A Martin (Sp, Amaya) +22:21; 13 G Bugno (It, Gatorade) +23:45; 14 J-P Dojwa (Fr, Festina) +23:54; 15 R Conti (It, Ariostea) +24:02. 19 S Roche (Irl, Carrera) +25:50. 33 R Millar (GB) 34:32. 66 S Yates (GB, Motorola) +57:20. Mountains leader: 1 Rominger 181pts; 2 Indurain 136; 3 Mejia 117. Points leader: 1 Abdoujaparov 202pts; 2 Ludwig 177; 3 Jalabert 165.