Pascal Lino went to bed near Paris last night to dream of a few more days in the Tour leader's yellow jersey. Certainly the nightmares will not begin until Monday when the cushion of more than five minutes between himself and the new threat, Gianni Bugno, will have the stuffing knocked out of it in the Luxembourg time trial.
Races against the clock are known as the 'race of truth'. There is nowhere to hide when a rider is alone with a bike and his ability.
Yesterday's time test for the teams of nine riders over 63.5 kilometres was a victory for Panasonic, a mixture of Dutch, Belgian, CIS, German and Italian riders.
The Dutchman Eddy Bouwmans and Dimitri Jdanov, of the CIS, profited most from the success, and yet the CIS professional finished 11 seconds behind his team. Often that is not so much a sign of weakness, but rather that the rider has worked harder early in the ride to allow his team-mates to stay fresher for the final push.
More significant was Gatorade's placing. It lifted the world champion Bugno, second in last year's Tour, to third place behind Lino and his RMO team-mate Richard Virenque, as the overnight occupant of that spot, Miguel Indurain, fell to sixth.
Bugno's Gatorade squad were third, 14 seconds slower than another Italian squad, Carrera, whose efforts put Claudio Chiappucci fourth overall and lifted Stephen Roche from 12th to fifth.
Roche's rise recalls his form before last year's downfall in this particular discipline when he was seven minutes late starting because of a call of nature. The incident set another question mark over the Irishman's future, but as always he has ridden out the crisis.
He is committed to assisting Chiappucci's hunt for the yellow jersey which he himself won in 1987, a good year for the Dubliner. He won the Tours of France and Italy and a world title. A feat well appreciated throughout the world of cycling.
For Indurain his Banesto team's seventh position represents little more than a hiccup in his aim to add the Tour de France to the Tour of Italy title he won last month.
Before the dust had settled yesterday, the 195 riders were heading north, by air, hopefully dodging any remaining truck blockades. The race has come a long way since the start in San Sebastian five days ago, and so too have Alex Zulle, Virenque and Lino, the challengers for Indurain's crown.
TOUR DE FRANCE Fourth stage (63.5km, team time trial, Libourne to Libourne): 1 Panasonic 1hr 13min 15sec; 2 Carrera +7sec; 3 Gatorade +21; 4 Z +40; 5 ONCE +47; 6 Motorola +48; 7 Banesto +50; 8 GB-MG +59; 9 TVM +1min 06sec; 10 PDM +1:14; 11 Tulip +1:19; 12 Castorama +1:26; 13 RMO +1:45; 14 Telekom +2:01; 15 Buckler +2:14; 16 Clas s/t; 17 Ryalcao-Postobon +2:48; 18 Ariostea +3:38; 19 Helvetia +3:44; 20 Festina +3:53.
Overall: 1 P Lino (RMO, Fr) 18hr 34min 51sec; 2 R Virenque (RMO, Fr) +1min 54sec; 3 G Bugno (Gatorade, It) +5:06; 4 C Chiappucci (Carrera, It) +5:20; 5 S Roche (Carrera, Irl) +5:28; 6 M Indurain (Banesto, Sp) +5:33; 7 G Perini (Carrera, It) +5:35; 8 E Bouwmans (Panasonic, Neth) +5:40; 9 D Zhdanov (Panasonic, CIS) +5:42; 10 L Fignon (Gatorade, Fr) +5:49; 11 V Tebaldi (Gatorade, It) +5:54; 12 G LeMond (Z, US) +5:55; 13 S Bauer (Motorola, Can) +6:12; 14 E Boyer (Z, Fr) +6:24; 15 P Delgado (Banesto, Sp) +6:25. Selected: 24 R Millar (TVM, GB) +6:47; 46 S Kelly (Festina, Irl) +9:33; 68 M Earley (PDM, Irl) +14:28; 131 S Yates (Motorola, GB) +26:31.
King of the Mountains: 1 Virenque 80pts; 2 Chiappucci 54; 3 F Chioccioli (GB-MG, It) 49; 4 J Murguialday (AMA, Sp) 48; 5 D Rezze (RMO, Fr) 39; 6 Indurain 20. Points: 1 Virenque 49pts; 2 J Museeuw (Lotto, Bel) 47; 3 R Harmeling (TVM, Neth) 45; 4 Murguialday 33; 5 Lino 32; 6 Indurain 32.
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