Cycling / Tour de France: Van Poppel tames beast

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The Independent Online
THE day of the fast finishers finally arrived yesterday, and Jean Paul van Poppel, a born-again sprinter, lifted the honours from under the nose of Djamolidine Abdoujaparov. The latter is not only a mouthful, he is a handful, but van Poppel had his measure as yesterday's race wound up in the big sprint that had been expected from the second day.

Abdoujaparov, from Tashkent, sprints like a beast possessed, and yesterday barged his way through to the front, only to be dispossessed. He eased, believing that he had the race won, then van Poppel slipped by. 'I had two solutions,' van Poppel said, 'I could have counter-attacked immediately, or waited until the last minute. I chose the right one.'

It was his eighth Tour stage victory but the sixth of those came four years ago. When van Poppel switched teams to join Panasonic, they tried to make him an all- rounder instead of relying on his finishing prowess. He managed two wins in the 1989 Tour of Italy, but a blank 1990 ended with the sack and a court-room dispute with Panasonic. Van Poppel failed to win that, too.

Jan Gisbers of the PDM team offered him a second chance with an earn-as-you-win scheme, rather than a fixed salary. It was incentive enough, and the Dutchman was soon flying again.

The hysteria of the finishing sprint failed to move the major contenders. They preferred to sit it out, but earlier Stephen Roche and Gianni Bugno lit an early firework for Bastille Day. Their attack, one of many abortive efforts during the race through the Moselle region, was hunted down by Miguel Indurain's forces.

El Conquistador is looking immovable, but Roche, even with a ruptured spinal disc, will not give up. 'Everyone thought that it would be a quiet day, but the only solution is to trap Indurain before the mountains,' Roche said.

Saturday's race into Italy could be the killer for many hopes, but today's lumpy leg to Mulhouse will soften up a few. Bugno will be scheming for Saturday's five mountains between St Gervais-Mont Blanc and Sestrieres.

Yesterday was the one and only chance for the sprinters. From now until Monday their suffering begins as the Tour heads into the clouds. The race leader, Pascal Lino, already says that his legs feel heavy.

Charly Mottet, the team leader reduced to a servant by Lino's success, and Steve Bauer, second overall three days ago, lost more than 14 minutes yesterday after both were halted by a crash. It was not a Bastille Day to celebrate either for Richard Virenque and Laurent Jalabert. They lost their leaders' jerseys as best climber and top points scorer.

TOUR DE FRANCE 10th stage (217km, Luxembourg to Strasbourg): 1 J-P van Poppel (PDM, Neth) 5hr 02min 45sec; 2 D Abdoujaparov (Carrera, CIS); 3 L Jalabert (ONCE, Fr); 4 J Museeuw (Lotto, Bel); 5 O Ludwig (Panasonic, Ger); 6 G Fidanza (Gatorade, It); 7 A van der Poel (Tulip, Neth); 8 P Anderson (Motorola, Aus); 9 E Vanderaerden (Buckler, Bel); 10 S Lilholt (Tulip, Den); 11 J Capiot (TVM, Bel); 12 V Ekimov (Panasonic, CIS); 13 F Roscioli (Carrera, It); 14 M Ghirotto (Carrera, It); 15 J Nevens (Lotto, Bel) all same time. Selected: 18 S Kelly (Festina, Irl); 21 G Bugno (Gatorade, It); 25 C Chiappucci (Carrera, It); 52 J Skibby (TVM, Den); 53 S Roche (Carrera, Irl); 64 M Indurain (Banesto, Sp); 68 P Lino (RMO, Fr); 77 G LeMond (Z, US); 89 S Yates (Motorola, GB); 122 R Millar (TVM, GB) all s/t.

Overall: 1 Lino 42hr 01min 48sec; 2 Indurain +1min 27sec; 3 Skibby +3:47; 4 Roche +4:15; 5 LeMond +4:27; 6 Bugno +4:39; 7 J Heppner (Telekom, Ger) +4:52; 8 Chiappucci +4:54; 9 Y Ledanois (Castorama, Fr) +5:52; 10 A Leanizbarrutia (CLAS, Sp) +6:15; 11 G Perini (Carrera, It) +6:50; 12 P Delgado (Banesto, Sp) +7:11; 13 L Fignon (Gatorade, Fr) +7:44; 14 R Alcala (PDM, Mex) +7:46; 15 G Rue (Castorama, Fr) +8:14. Selected: 30 Millar +12:21; 36 Kelly +14:56; 83 Yates +29:33; 87 M Earley (PDM, Irl) +30:32.

(Maps omitted)