Cycling / Tour de France: Indurain breaks challengers' will to resist: Rominger on course for mountains jersey as Italians hit the wall

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AFTER a blistering first day in the Alps, Miguel Indurain reigns supreme in the Tour de France having almost doubled his lead to 3min 8sec.

The forecast had threatened rain on the stage from Villard- de-Lans, with temperatures of 35F at the top of the Galibier mountain. Indurain dreads such weather because he is susceptible to chest colds. But the heat was on, with Indurain turning the screw in a breakaway that smashed the challenges of the vaunted mountaineers, Gianni Bugno and Claudio Chiappucci.

Bugno, second to Indurain in 1991, lost nearly eight minutes, and Chiappucci, twice second to the Basque, trailed in 8:49 after Switzerland's Tony Rominger had swept past Indurain and the Colombian Alvaro Mejia to win the 10th stage. Rominger rose from 20th to fifth, but acknowledges the might of Indurain, and seems prepared to settle for a jersey of another colour rather than burn himself out attacking the seemingly invincible.

'He is incredible, and so strong. It is not possible to attack and shake him off,' Rominger said. 'I would have to improve to beat him. You have to be able to attack, get away and then accelerate again so that he cannot catch you. That is very difficult.'

His target now is the mountains jersey of red polka dots, a contest in which he is third, and seven points off the lead with another vicious day over four mountains due today on the road to Isola.

Chiappucci had the same ambition when he woke up today, but the nightmare that followed put him out of contention for most awards except a stage win. He slipped away at the finish, unable to face questions, but the world champion, Bugno, arrived to hang a question mark over his own future. 'Throughout the day I was thinking shall I end my career,' he said. 'I am going to look at the race times, and then I will decide. I might complete the Tour, but this day was a crisis for me. I tried to follow Indurain when he attacked, and I paid for it later.'

Indurain's view of the day was simple. 'Rominger and I have different objectives, and this day we accomplished them. He realised that he could not shake me off so he settled for a stage win.'

Mejia, a Colombian with a broad grin, has risen to chief challenger status once more. He chased to join Indurain, Rominger, Poland's Zenon Jaskula, and his own Motorola team-mate, the American Andy Hampsten, on the 17-kilometre slog to the peak of Galibier.

Such was the explosion in the main field yesterday that Johan Bruyneel of Belgium, third overnight, 2:30 behind, dived to 17:45, and Johan Museeuw, Saturday's new Tour leader, is more than 24 minutes down. His fellow Belgian, Wilfried Nelissen, in the yellow jersey for three days, now rests 136th, over 48 minutes in arrears.

TOUR DE FRANCE 10th stage (204km, Villard- de-Lans to Serre Chevalier): 1 T Rominger (Swit, Clas) 5hr 28min 52sec; 2 A Mejia (Col, Motorola); 3 M Indurain (Sp, Banesto) both same time; 4 Z Jaskula (Pol, GB MG) +1min 13sec; 5 A Hampsten (US, Motorola) s/t; 6 E Breukink (Neth, Once) +3:32; 7 O Rincon (Col, Amaya) s/t; 8 R Virenque (Fr, Festina) +4:35; 9 R Conti (It, Ariostea); 10 J Mauleon (Sp, Clas) both s/t. Selected: 18 A Zulle (Swit, Once) +6:57; 21 G Bugno (It, Gatorade) +7:42; 27 S Roche (Irl, Carrera) +8:49; 29 C Chiappucci (It, Carrera) s/t; 68 S Yates (GB, Motorola) +21:42; 87 R Millar (GB, TVM) s/t.

Overall: 1 Indurain 40hr 58min 17sec; 2 Mejia +3min 8sec; 3 Jaskula +4:16; 4 Breukink +5:07; 5 Rominger +5:44; 6 Hampsten +8:06; 7 Mottet +9:44; 8 B Riis (Den, Ariostea) +9:55; 9 Bugno +10:14; 10 Zulle +11:09. Selected: 12 Roche +12:59; 16 Chiappucci +13:56; 74 Yates +31:29; 78 Millar +33:18.

(Maps omitted)