Cycling / Tour de France: Boardman answers the call: Indurain protects lead into Pyrenees as French champion engineers bold escape to capture stage

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The Independent Online
THE HEAT is on and Chris Boardman is ready to sweat it out as the peaks of the Pyrenees loom and the mercury climbs above 35C.

Roger Legeay, Boardman's manager, wants the latest asset in his Gan squad to feel the mountains under his wheels. 'It is important experience for next year,' he said. 'Chris's problem is that he is more tired than most in the race. The time trial on Monday took a lot out of him so we are now seeing how it goes each day and then making a decision on his future.'

Boardman had to be persuaded to carry on after Monday's sapping time trial but still lies seventh after another broiling day ended in the medieval town of Cahors, which Henry of Navarra besieged more than 400 years ago.

Miguel of Navarra, better known as Indurain, the ruler of the tour, does not keep such a grip on his subjects and yesterday's 160 kilometres from Bergerac belonged to Jacky Durand. The French champion, master of the great escape, sped away after the first four km with the Italians Gianluca Bortolami and Marco Serpellini and Australia's Stephen Hodge. It was a bold gamble because Bortolami ranks among the leading contenders.

Durand tried for victory last week in the company of the New Zealander Stephen Swart on the road to Boulogne but was recaptured nine km from success. Yesterday, determined that nothing should go wrong, he broke clear of his co- leaders in the last eight km.

Bortolami's presence would have been a problem for most race leaders but Indurain as cool as anyone can be in the weather conditions made sure that the Italian had some rope but not enough to endanger the yellow jersey.

Bortolami's progress was interrupted by a puncture 10km from the finish but after a wheel change he still took fourth place before Indurain and his army arrived almost a minute later.

The Italian made it into third overall but despite his efforts is still more than four and a half minutes away from Indurain, who seems poised for his fourth Tour victory in a row even before the race tackles the Pyrenees and the Alps.

Stephen Hodge, who took third place, finished gasping in the heat. 'It was incredible,' he said. 'I was really worried because I was thinking that I might get sunstroke. There was not much I could do about it however. I have never suffered as much as this before.'

The suffering continues as the race finishes today atop its first Pyrenean climb after 246km of flatlands suddenly pop up towards the clouds above Lourdes to finish on the 1,560m Hautacam, a climb of 13km but nothing compared to what lies ahead.

For Boardman the Pyrenees will represent another hard day in the Tour school. 'I have learned quite a few lessons in the past week, most of them the hard way. I have been making notes, however, on things I have to change if I am to make a success of next year's Tour.

'At least everyone knows that I exist. Tony Rominger (currently second overall) asked me quite a few questions the other day which was quite flattering considering his experience in this game. He wanted to know about the world hour record and was asking what bike I would use.'

Boardman has pencilled in late January for his attempt to regain the record from Scotland's Graeme Obree.

TOUR DE FRANCE Tenth stage (160.5km, Bergerac to Cahors): 1 J Durand (Fr) Castorama 3hr 38min 11sec; 2 M Serpellini (It) Lampre +55sec; 3 S Hodge (Aus) Festina +59; 4 G Bortolami (It) Mapei Clas; 5 C Henn (Ger) Telekomall same time; 6 J-C Colotti (Fr) GAN +1:03; 7 M Chiesa (It) Carrera +1:18; 8 D Abdoujaparov (Uzbek) Polti +1:55; 9 J Svorada (Slovak) Lampre; 10 S Martinello (It) Mercatone Uno; 11 E Magnien (Fr) Castorama; 12 A Tchmil (Mol) Lotto; 13 E Zabel (Ger) Telekom; 14 H Frison (Bel) Lotto; 15 G-J Theunisse (Neth) TVM; 16 C Zamana (Pol) Kelme; 17 M Sergeant (Bel) Novemail; 18 R Verdonck (Bel) Lotto; 19 M de Clercq (Bel) Lotto; 20 O Ludwig (Ger) Telekom, l same time. Selected: 29 T Rominger (Swit) Mapei Clas +1:55; 37 C Chiappucci (It) Carrera; 38 M Indurain (Sp) Banesto; 57 S Yates (GB) Motorola; 92 C Boardman (GB) GAN; 147 G Bugno (Italy) Polti, same time.

Leading overall standings: 1 Indurain 44hr 49min 19sec; 2 Rominger +2min 28sec; 3 Bortolami +4:37; 4 A de las Cuevas (Fr) Castorama +4:40; 5 T Marie (Fr) Castorama +5:51; 6 T Davy (Fr) Castorama +6:04; 7 Boardman +6:06; 8 Yates +6:30; 9 A Olano (Sp) Mapei Clas +6:31; 10 L Armstrong (US) Motorola +6:35; 11 B Riis (Den) Gewiss Ballan +6:40; 12 Abdoujaparov +6:45; 13 J Museeuw (Bel) GB MG +6:46; 14 F Vanzella (It) GB MG +6:59; 15 P Ugrumov (Lat) Gewiss Ballan +7:08; 16 L Leblanc (Fr) Festina +8:37; 17 A Peron (It) Polti +9:10; 18 V Ekimov (Rus) WordPerfect +9:21; 19 V Poulnikov (Ukr) Carrera +9:40; 20 E Zaina (It) Gewiss Ballan +9:41. Selected: 22 Chiappucci +10:00; 51 Bugno +13:50.

(Maps omitted)