With six days of racing remaining, the next three of them in the mountains, there was a growing fear among the French that they could have a year without a home rider winning a stage. Since the Second World War they have managed at least two wins in each Tour, but this year they have no one capable of living with Tony Rominger, of Switzerland, in the mountains, and certainly no chance of outpacing the Tour leader, Miguel Indurain, in a time-trial.
So when Lino held off Giancarlo Perini in what was a grind to the line, rather than a sprint, pride rose again. Lino, as defiant as the resident Catalans, responded to the moaners: 'I wanted to stop the critics who were saying that we were too well paid and did not attack enough,' he said. 'I decided that I would show them that France was not non-existent in this race.'
He attacked with 190 kilometres of the 224 from Montpellier still to race. Perini joined him, and eventually five riders took the long trail through the vineyards of the Corbieres.
Perini, Mario Chiesa and Gianni Faresin gave Italy the upper hand, with the Belgian Johan Bruyneel the only rider among them in touch with the overall lead. Their lead grew almost as quickly as the crowds crammed road junctions in the hope that one Frenchman could get the better of three Italians.
Home hopes were building as the leaders reached Tuchan, where in two days' time there is more racing - a grand prix for ostriches.
Fifteen kilometres from the finish Lino stuck his neck out again with an attack that only Perini had the legs to match. The 34-year-old Italian looked fiendish in tinted goggles with his bald head gleaming in the sun, but there was not enough devil in his final effort, and Lino held on as France held its breath.
The Frenchman, who had won the battle on streets adorned with the flags of Catalonia, was more than 16 minutes ahead of Indurain, who had nothing to fear from the men out in front. Bruyneel moved to eighth overall, but is still more than 14 minutes away from being a threat, and Indurain was able to take it easy in preparation for the following days in the mountains.
The duel for the red polka dot jersey flared again as the King of the Mountains leader, Rominger, of Switzerland, saw off the challenge of the Italian, Claudio Chiappucci, on the Mont St Clair. After the Alps, it was a short, but severe climb, with a section of 11 per cent gradient, rising 190 metres from the Mediterranean coast road.
Today the race and its 143 survivors attempt a 'staircase' of climbs into Andorra. They have a day off to rest in the tiny state tomorrow, then they must tackle the rigours of the Pyrenees.
TOUR DE FRANCE 14th stage (224km, 140 miles, Montpellier to Perpignan): 1 P Lino (Fr, Festina) 5hr 28min 51sec; 2 G Perini (It, ZG Mobili) same time; 3 J Bruyneel (Bel, ONCE) +13sec; 4 M Chiesa (It, Carrera); 5 G Faresin (It, ZG Mobili) both s/t; 6 D Abdoujaparov (Uzbek, Lampre) +16min 19sec; 7 L Jalabert (Fr, Once); 8 C Capelle (Fr, Gan); 9 F Simon (Fr, Castorama); 10 G Fidanza (It, Gatorade); 11 M Sciandri (It, Motorola); 12 F Moncassin (Fr, WordPerfect); 13 F Pineau (Fr, Chazal); 14 S Colage (It, ZG Mobili); 15 J Museeuw (Bel, GB-MG). Selected: 36 T Rominger (Swit, Clas); 44 S Roche (Irl, Carrera); 48 C Chiappucci (It, Carrera); 49 M Indurain (Sp, Banesto); 50 G Bugno (It, Gatorade); 74 Alex Zulle (Swit, Once); 79 R Millar (GB, TVM); 92 S Yates (GB, Motorola) all s/t.
Overall: 1 Indurain 64hr 27min 59sec; 2 A Mejia (Col, Motorola) +3min 23sec; 3 Z Jaskula (Pol, GB-MG) +4:45; 4 Rominger +5:44; 5 B Riis (Den, Ariostea) +10:26; 6 A Hampsten (US, Motorola) +11:02; 7 Chiappucci +14:09; 8 Bruyneel +14:30; 9 V Poulnikov (Ukr, Carrera) +14:35; 10 E Breukink (Neth, Once) +15:08; 11 P Delgado (Sp, Banesto) +15:46; 12 O Rincon (Col, Amaya) +21:31; 13 A Martin (Sp, Amaya) +22:21; 14 G Faresin (It, ZG Mobili) +23:10; 15 Bugno +23:46. Selected: 18 Zulle +24:14; 21 Roche +25.50; 34 Millar +34:32; 66 Yates +57:20.
King of the Mountains: 1 Rominger 191pts; 2 Indurain 136; 3 Mejia 117.
Points: 1 Abdoujaparov 228pts; 2 Jalabert 186; 3 O Ludwig (Ger, Telekom) 177.Reuse content