Yet others had the energy to make a fight of it in temperatures reaching 36C, and Rolf Sorensen had a little too much zest for Neil Stephens in their duel in the sun.
Sorensen shadowed his rival in the final kilometre and only when it came to the sprint for the line did he pass Stephens. They had been the leaders for most of the race. First with 14 others, then with three until 20 kilometres from the finish of the 202km leg, when they escaped.
'I was in full control,' Sorensen said. 'Stephens knew I could out- sprint him.' The Dane has come back after breaking his wrist earlier this season and he knows well the pain of the Tour. In 1991, his time in the yellow jersey ended after four days when he crashed, breaking a collarbone, only four kilometres from the finish. He remounted on a team-mate's bike and made it to the line but could not start the next morning.
Almost six minutes behind, Miguel Indurain was also in control. His lead of 7min 56sec was intact and he had no fear from those who had escaped. 'My aim is to control the race and those in front were not dangerous,' he said, almost like the lord of the manor throwing scraps to the peasantry.
All is gratefully received as the Alps are due tomorrow, which is enough to weaken any resolve. Among those whose resolve collapsed yesterday was Jacky Durand, who was a winner five days ago. 'It is difficult because of the heat and everyone has lost a lot of energy through the speed of the early stages, even into the Pyrenees,' he said.
The Tour's doctor, Gerard Porte, agreed, adding that drinking ice- cold water in the heat did not help. 'They get digestive problems because of it,' he said. 'Then, at night, the heat prevents them sleeping well enough to recover properly for the next day's racing.'
Today, the 141 riders remaining from the original 189 face Mont Ventoux, an exposed 1,910 metres of rockiness. 'It's a terrible climb, especially in this heat,' Indurain said. 'But I am not afraid of it.'
The Tour will remember Tom Simpson, who died 27 years ago climbing this mountain. His death was attributed mainly to heat exhaustion. Officials will lay flowers at his memorial in a ceremony attended by his widow, Helen.
Three years after Simpson's death, the Tour returned to the Ventoux and the stage was run later to avoid the afternoon heat. There is no such luck for the riders today. They will have been in the saddle for five hours when they reach its slopes.
TOUR DE FRANCE 13th stage (223km, 145 miles, Bagneres-de-Bigorre to Albi): 1 B Riis (Den) Gewiss-Ballan 5hr 14min 48sec; 2 J Svorada (Slovak) Lampre +9sec; 3 D Abdoujaparov (Uzbek) Polti; 4 S Martinello (It) Mercatone; 5 C Capelle (Fr) GAN; 6 J-P Van Poppel (Neth) Festina; 7 A Tchmil (Rus) Lotto; 8 E Magnien (Fr) Castorama; 9 F Simon (Fr) Castorama; 10 M Sergeant (Bel) Novemail; 11 E Dekker (Neth) WordPerfect; 12 C Bomans (Bel) GB- MG; 13 C Zamana (Pol) Kelme; 14 E Zabel (Ger) Telekom; 15 A Edo (Sp) Kelme; 16 G Perini (It) ZG- Mobili; 17 N Emonds (Bel) Mapei-Clas; 18 H Redant (Bel) ZG-Mobili; 19 D Bottaro (It) Gewiss-Ballan; 20 T Gouvenou (Fr) GAN all same time. Selected: 84 S Yates (GB) Motorola s/t. Abandoned: T Rominger (Swit) Mapei-Clas. 14th stage (202km, 126 miles, Castres to Montpellier): 1 R Sorensen (Den) GB- MG 5hr 11min 4sec; 2 N Stephens (Aus) ONCE same time; 3 R Jaermann (Swit) GB-MG +1min 13sec; 4 M Ghirotto (It) ZG-Mobili s/t; 5 P Herve (Fr) Festina +1:15; 6 D Abdoujaparov (Uzbek) Polti +5:56; 7 J Svorada (Slovak) Lampre; 8 S Martinello (It) Mercatone Uno; 9 M Sergeant (Bel) Novemail; 10 E Magnien (Fr) Castorama; 11 J-C Colotti (Fr) GAN; 12 F Moreau (Fr) GAN; 13 A Tchmil (Mol) Lotto; 14 G Bortolami (It) Mapei-Clas; 15 R Verdonck (Bel) Lotto; 16 F Simon (Fr) Castorama; 17 O Ludwig (Ger) Telekom; 18 C Zamana (Pol) Kelme; 19 B Zberg (Swit) Carrera; 20 E Dekker (Neth) WordPerfect all s/t. Selected: 131 S Yates (GB) Motorola s/t. Overall standings: 1 M Indurain (Sp) Banesto 68hr 35min 36sec; 2 R Virenque (Fr) Festina +7min 56sec; 3 A de las Cuevas (Fr) Castorama +8:02; 4 L Leblanc (Fr) Festina +8:35; 5 V Poulnikov (Ukr) Carrera +11:30; 6 M Pantani (It) Carrera +11:55; 7 B Riis (Den) Gewiss-Ballan +11:55; 8 T Davy (Fr) Castorama +12:26; 9 P Ugrumov (Lat) Gewiss-Ballan 13:17; 10 A Olano (Sp) Kelme +14:05; 11 A Zulle (Swit) ONCE +16:13; 12 J-F Bernard (Fr) +16:14; 13 N Rodriguez (Col) ZG-Mobili +16:44; 14 G Bortolami (It) Mapei-Clas +17:38; 15 P Herve (Fr) Festina +17:54; 16 R Conti (It) Lampre +18:12; 17 P Lino (Fr) Festina +18:16; 18 A Elli (It) GB-MG +18:25; 19 O Pellicioli (It) Polti 18:42; 20 F Escartin (Sp) Mapei-Clas +20:03. Selected: 53 Yates +40.10.
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