Cycling Pile-up robs Jalabert of the yellow jersey

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The Independent Online
Cycling

ROBIN NICHOLL

with the Tour de France

The spectre of Armentieres returned to the Tour de France yesterday as a high-speed pile-up robbed the Frenchman, Laurent Jalabert, of the leader's yellow jersey and left the new wearer, Italy's Ivan Gotti, looking equally haunted on the podium.

Jalabert, victim of a hair-raising crash on the second day at Armentieres last year, was within 2km of the finish to yesterday's 162km leg when Sammie Moreels lost control as he led the field into a sweeping bend.

The Belgian hit the kerb and smashed into the barriers, bringing down several riders including Jalabert and another Armentieres casualty, Wilfried Nelissen, Moreels' team-mate. This time they escaped injury.

A desperate chase by Jalabert failed to save his overnight lead of eight seconds on Gotti, and he arrived 50 seconds after Mario Cipollini had sprinted to his second victory in three days.

"It's not finished," Jalabert said, having slipped to 40 seconds behind overall. "I am still confident and I am out for revenge. It was a shame to lose the jersey without a chance to defend it. I purposely stayed near the front of the race to avoid crashing, and this happened."

His bike was unusable and he quickly swapped machines with his Australian team-mate, Neil Stephens, to reach the finish.

Gotti was 44th in the wake of Cipollini's charge, which snatched victory from under the nose of the German rider, Erik Zabel, who set the pace over the final 100 metres.

Gotti had not visited a victory podium since his amateur days five years ago and he accepted the yellow jersey, a huge bouquet and the kisses of his escorts without a trace of emotion. "I would rather not have taken the colours in this fashion. It's totally unexpected," he said. "I thought my chance had gone on Tuesday. Now I hope I can hold on to the jersey until Sunday's time trial, when I would like to lose it to my team-mate, Evgeny Berzin."

Nothing seemed to go right for France yesterday. Moves by Yvon Ledanois and later Bruno Thibout, with the Spanish rider Francisco Cabello, were drawn back. Thibout, from the stricken Castorama squad, won an intermediate sprint at the new Pont de Normandie that bridges the Seine like a huge roller-coaster before the advancing horde swept him up.

To console French hearts his ailing team-mate, Francois Simon, kept the polka dot jersey of No 1 climber. Castorama started five days ago knowing they had lost their sponsor but still took the race lead through Jacky Durand. Then sickness hit the team and yesterday Simon, Durand and Emmanuel Magnien reached Le Havre more than 13 minutes after Cipollini.

TOUR DE FRANCE Fourth stage (162km, Alencon to Le Havre) Leading positions: 1 M Cipollini (It) Mercatone Uno 3hr 40min 23se; 2 E Zabel (Ger) Telekom- ZG; 3 F Moncassin (Fr) Novell; 4 T Laurent (Fr) Castorama; 5 F Andreu (US) Motorola; 6 J Svorada (Slovak) Lampre; 7 G Bortolami (It) Mapei GB; 8 A Tchmil (Rus) Lotto; 9 B Riis (Den) Gewiss Ballan; 10 J Blijlevens (Neth) TVM; 11 M Indurain (Sp) Banesto; 12 B Hamburger (Den) TVM; 13 T Rominger (Swit) Mapei GB; 14 B Boscardin (It) Festina; 15 M Sciandri (GB) MG Technogym; 16 E Zaina (It) Carrera; 17 L Armstrong (US) Motorola; 18 A Edo (Sp) Kelme; 19 L Dufaux (Swit) Festina; 20 R Virenque (Fr) Festina all same time. GB: 69 S Yates Motorola s/t.

Leading overall standings: 1 I Gotti (It) Gewiss Ballan 16hr 19min 6sec; 2 Riis +1sec; 3 M Mauri (Sp) ONCE +17; 4 A Zulle (Swit) ONCE +18; 5 J Bruyneel (Bel) ONCE +24; 6 Y Berzin (Rus) Gewiss Ballan +27; 7 F Frattini (It) Gewiss Ballan +30; 8 L Jalabert (Fr) ONCE +40; 9 B Cenghialta (It) Gewiss Ballan +43; 10 Indurain +50; 11 V Aparicio (Sp) Banesto +51; 12 M Rojas (Sp) ONCE +53; 13 G Colombo (It) Gewiss Ballan +54; 14 E Breukink (Neth) ONCE +1:18; 15 A Gonzales (Sp) Mapei GB +1:16; 16 Rominger +1:19; 17 G Bontempi (It) Gewiss Ballan +1:28; 18 J Mauleon (Sp) Mapei GB +1:30; 19 F Escartin (Sp) Mapei GB +1:31; 20 J R Uriarte (Sp) Banesto +1:33. GB: 28 Sciandri +2:04; 49 Yates +2:51.

Points classification leaders (green jersey): 1 D Abdoujaparov (Uzbek) Novell 66pts; 2 Jalabert 65; 3 F Baldato (It) MG Technogym 63.

King of the Mountains leaders (red polka dot jersey): 1 F Simon (Fr) Castorama 16pts; 2 P de Clercq (Bel) Lotto 9; 3 D Konyshev (Rus) AKI Gipiemme 6. Team competition leaders: 1 Gewiss Ballan 37hr 55min 19sec; 2 ONCE +1:28; 3 Banesto +3:40.

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