'It was one of the blackest days of my career,' Rominger said after struggling to the top of Wednesday's first of the Tour's 18 major mountain climbs 2min 20sec behind Indurain. That left him with a deficit of 4min 47sec overall, and his reaction was swift. 'The Tour is finished for me. That is certain.' It may be finished as far as his challenge for the yellow jersey is concerned, but if he recovers sufficiently there are other goals.
'Perhaps I can win a stage or take the mountain climber's jersey,' Rominger said. 'Indurain is so strong, even stronger than last year, but what hurts most is that I have lost without a fight.'
Fortune is with Indurain. Claudio Chiappucci, who made him suffer in the 1992 Tour, is also sick. Weakened by his inability to eat, he crossed the line escorted by five team-mates nearly 24 minutes after Indurain and so another challenge was dead.
It looks like his fourth victory is shaping up nicely, but nobody can get Indurain to say so. 'It gives me more confidence and tranquility to head the mountain stages,' Indurain said as he prepared for 17 mountains in the next nine days.
The challenge of Tourmalet, the giant of the Pyrenees, is among four which will test the riders today. The race leaves Lourdes, after yesterday's rest day, for the ski resort of Luz- Ardiden, a leg of 204km with the mountains waiting in the last 100km. By reputation, the exposed Ventoux mountain, which they will tackle on Monday, is the most feared, and one that Indurain has never experienced in the Tour.
TOUR DE FRANCE Leading overall standings: 1 M Indurain (Sp) Banesto 51hr 47min 25sec; 2 T Rominger (Swit) Mapei Clas +4:47; 3 A de las Cuevas (Fr) Castorama +5:36; 4 P Ugrumov (Lat) Gewiss Ballan +8:32; 5 L Leblanc (Fr) Festina +8:35; 6 B Riis (Den) Gewiss Ballan +8:59; 7 G Bortolami (It) Mapei Clas +9:14; 8 A Olano (Sp) Kelme +9:20; 9 T Davy (Fr) Castorama +9:46; 10 E Zaina (It) Gewiss Balan +11:15; 11 V Poulnikov (Ukr) Carrera +11:30; 12 P Tonkov (Rus) Lampre +12:15; 13 J-F Bernard (Fr) Banesto +12:33; 14 A Zuelle (Swit) ONCE +12:44; 15 T Marie (Fr) Castorama +12:52; 16 D Abdoujaparov (Uzbek) Polti +13:06; 17 A Peron (It) Polti +13:11; 18 F Vanzella (It) GB MG +13:20; 19 R Conti (It) Lampre 13:27; 20 L Armstrong (US) Motorola +13:36. Selected: 40 G Bugno (It) Polti +19:06; 55 S Yates (GB) Motorola +22:26; 125 C Chiappucci (It) Carrera +33:55.Reuse content