Cycling / Tour de France: Roche marks swan-song by rolling back the years: Dubliner produces a late show of strength in pursuit of Indurain as Rominger is happy to settle for the crown as King of the Mountains

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The Independent Online
THERE was a flash of the inspirational Stephen Roche in the Pyrenees yesterday. For those who witnessed his ride in pursuit of the Tour de France leader, Miguel Indurain, it was a moment to savour, and possibly the last.

'I want to stop when the Tour finishes in Paris on Sunday. Where better to finish than on the Champs Elysees,' the Dubliner said after finishing fourth, 25 seconds behind Zenon Jaskula, who made Polish cycling history as the country's first stage-winner in the 230-kilometre leg through Andorra, Spain and France.

'This is my day. A year ago I won the stage at La Bourbole. So I gave it everything I had,' Roche said. 'There is no way I will change my mind about retiring, though I may be asked to stay on for a couple of World Cup races.'

His ride to the Pla d'Adet finish above St Lary-Soulan added to the drama as the race finally came to life in the last 10 kilometres. Tony Rominger twice launched attacks. The second opened a gap but Indurain closed it, just as Jaskula was overhauling the Scot, Robert Millar, who had started the pursuit of Indurain.

As fast as the chief challenger, Alvaro Mejia, of Colombia, lost ground so Roche was gaining it. He drew to within 15 seconds but slipped to 25 at the line, where riders were still arriving half an hour later.

His performance was reminiscent of his relentless ride on the La Plagne mountain in 1987 that left him in need of oxygen after collapsing at the finish. Four days later he was being saluted as the winner of the Tour.

At his best Roche would not have allowed Indurain to settle so easily into the yellow jersey, but it seems the men who should be his rivals are content to rest where they are, and the Tour has come close to being the Bore de France because of the garrotte that the Basque's team have applied to their apparently willing victims.

Jaskula's sprint for the line, chased by Rominger, left Indurain an unconcerned three seconds behind, but a further minute ahead of Mejia, who was nursed home by his American team-mate, Andy Hampsten.

The Basque is almost four and a half minutes clear, and Rominger has similarly tied up the red polka dot jersey of King of the Mountains, ahead of Italy's Claudio Chiappucci.

Francesco Moser, the holder of the world hour record until Graeme Obree completed 51.597 kilometres in Norway last Saturday, has refused to recognise the Scot's new mark. The Italian said in the French daily, L'Equipe, that since Obree rode on an indoor track, 'my record is not really beaten because it was achieved on an open-air track, where it is not always possible to drop in on the day when the conditions are ideal'.

Moser set his 51.151km mark at altitude on the Mexico City track in 1984.

The Olympic pursuit champion, Chris Boardman, will attack the record indoors at Bordeaux tomorrow. Moser, 42, may attempt to retake the record next January, 10 years on from his previous mark.

TOUR DE FRANCE 16th stage (230.5km, Andorra to St Lary-Soulan): 1 Z Jaskula (Pol, GB MG) 7hr 21min 1sec; 2 T Rominger (Swit, Clas) same time; 3 M Indurain (Sp, Banesto) +3sec; 4 S Roche (Irl, Carrera) +25; 5 R Millar (GB, TVM) +1min 06sec; 6 A Hampsten (US, Motorola) +1:08; 7 A Mejia (Col, Motorola) s/t; 8 R Virenque (Fr, Festina) +1:35; 9 J Unzaga (Sp, Clas); 10 C Chiappucci (It, Carrera) all s/t; 11 J-P Dojwa (Fr, Festina) +1:37; 12 J Bruyneel (Bel, Once) +1:39; 13 G Faresin (It, ZG Mobili) +1:41; 14 A Martin (Sp, Amaya) +1:49; 15 R Conti (It, Ariostea) +1:52. Selected: 106 S Yates (GB, Motorola) +25:01.

Overall: 1 Indurain 79hr 11min 12sec; 2 Mejia +4min 28sec; 3 Jaskula +4:42; 4 Rominger +5:41; 5 B Riis (Den, Ariostea) +12:15; 6 Hampsten +14:35; 7 Chiappucci +15:43; 8 Bruyneel +16:30; 9 P Delgado (Sp, Banesto) +19:21; 10 V Poulnikov (Ukr, Carrera) +20:40; 11 Martin +24:19; 12 Dojwa +25:30; 13 Faresin +25:44; 14 Conti +26:16; 15 O Rincon (Col, Amaya) +26:19. Selected: 16 Roche +26:37; 22 Millar +36:18; 87 Yates +1hr 51min 40sec.

King of the Mountains: 1 Rominger 393pts; 2 Chiappucci 243; 3 Rincon 242. Points: 1 D Abdoujaparov (Uzb, Lampre) 228; 2 L Jalabert (Fr, Once) 180; 3 Indurain 124.

(Maps omitted)