Cycling: Traversoni profits from foul play on the line

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Mario Traversoni sprinted hard for what he thought was third place when the Tour de France arrived in Dijon, unaware that he was to be the winner.

"It is unbelievable," the Italian said 20 minutes later when he was invited to step onto the podium in place of Bart Voskamp.

The Dutchman had crossed the line first after clashing with the German, Jens Heppner, but after studying the race film the jury took away their first and second placings, the third disqualification of the Tour.

Heppner's team-mate Erik Zabel was relegated at Marennes for blocking Dutchman Jeroen Blijlevens, and five days later the Ukrainian Sergei Outschakov was relegated for cutting across Laurent Desbiens at Perpignan.

Twenty-six seconds before Traversoni inched clear of a bustling sprint, Voskamp had cut across Heppner, who responded by leaning on him. They raced for several metres with the German's shoulder almost on Voskamp's hip. Heppner was in danger of falling, but finally they parted and Voskamp coasted over first.

"It is a crazy decision to give it to someone who comes in 26 seconds after us," Heppner said, but Voskamp was more vociferous.

"It is unbelievable," he said, "these people who make a laughing stock of the Tour. I deviated two centimetres from my line and they take away my victory." He posted an appeal immediately, and apparently had the support of Jean Marie Leblanc, the Tour's director general.

"I have never seen anything before like that sprint," Walter Godefroot, the Belgian boss of Heppner's Deutsche Telekom team. "Voskamp had enough room and he should have kept straight in the sprint."

As Traversoni "won", Out-schakov claimed that he was a victim as another Dutchman, Peter van Petegem, sliced up the sprinting group. His plea did not go unheeded, and Van Petegem was relegated to last place in that group.

Blissfully unaware of the storm at the finish were the main contenders, who were nearly 18 minutes further back. Their laid-back approach to the 172 kilometres enabled 14 riders buried deep in the overall standings to race to a remarkable lead.

Twenty-eight kilometres from Dijon, Voskamp attacked. Heppner responded and they raced away to spice a day which was otherwise as flat as the roads they were covering.

The jury placed Voskamp and Heppner 10th and 11th, with Van Petegem relegated to 14th. The published result read strangely, with Traversoni and the eight placed behind him 26 seconds in arrears. The result for Voskamp and Heppner showed them as having lost no time, while Van Petegem was 26 seconds behind, sandwiched between a rider 37 seconds adrift and the main field at 17:57.

A revised result then put Van Petegem into 12th place, avoiding the anomaly of having a rider with a smaller time loss between two with bigger deficits.

A Mickey Mouse affair, but why not? The Tour is due in Disneyland today, and it seems some have got there a day early. Amid Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Goofy, and Donald Duck, today will be deadly serious for Ullrich.

He can boost his victory margin in a time trial at the Disney complex near Paris. Currently he is 6min 22sec clear of Richard Virenque, and a repeat of last year at St Emilion is anticipated.

Then, he clocked 50.44kph to beat Miguel Indurain by 56 seconds and prompted Godefroot to tip him as the next Tour winner.

TOUR DE FRANCE 19th stage, Montbeliard to Dijon (172km): 1 M Traversoni (It) Mercatone Uno 4hr 3min 17sec; 2 F Simon (Fr) GAN ; 3 M Saligari (It) Casino ; 4 C Henn (Ger) Telekom; 5 V Ekimov (Rus) US Postal; 6 T Bourguignon (Fr) Big Mat; 7 E Dekker (Neth) Rabobank; 8 S Knaven (Neth) TVM; 9 S Outschakov (Ukr) Polti all same time; 10 *B Voskamp (Neth) TVM +26sec; 11 *J Heppner (Ger) Telekom; 12 P van Petegem (Neth) TVM same time; 13 R Sorensen (Den) Rabobank +30; 14 A Pretot (Fr) GAN +37; 15 C Vasseur (Fr) GAN +17min 57sec; 16 A Baffi (It) US Postal; 17 T Schmidt (Ger) Roslotto; 18 L Aus (Est) Casino; 19 M Artunghi (It) Mercatone Uno; 20 E Zabel (Ger) Telekom all s/t. *Relegated to 26 seconds behind the winner for illegal tactics. Four to follow: 28 A Olano (Sp) Banesto +17:57; 36 R Virenque (Fr) Festina; 77 B Riis (Den) Telekom; 129 L Jalabert (Fr) ONCE all s/t.

Overall standings: 1 J Ullrich (Ger) Telekom 95hr 19min 17sec; 2 R Virenque (Fr) Festina +6:22; 3 M Pantani (It) Mercatone Uno +10:13; 4 F Escartin (Sp) Kelme +16:05; 5 A Olano (Sp) Banesto +16:40; 6 F Casagrande (It) Saeco +17:14; 7 B Riis (Den) Telekom +18:07; 8 J Jimenez (Sp) Banesto +23:42; 9 R Conti (It) Mercatone Uno +28:20; 10 L Dufaux (Swit) Festina +29:29; 11 B Zberg (Swit) Mercatone Uno +31:39; 12 O Camenzind (Swit) Mapei +32:38; 13 P Luttenberger (Aut) Rabobank +38:16; 14 M Beltran (Sp) Banesto +43:00; 15 J-C Robin (Fr) US Postal +53:07; 16 M Boogerd (Neth) Rabobank +55:11; 17 D Nardello (It) Mapei +56:24; 18 B Julich (US) Cofidis +59:31; 19 C Moreau (Fr) Festina +1:00:37; 20 S Heulot (Fr) La Francaise des Jeux +1:00:54. Four to follow: 2 Virenque; 5 Olano; 7 Riis; 44 L Jalabert + 1:55:12. King of the Mountains: 1 Virenque 574pts; 2 Ullrich 328; 3 Casagrande 309; 4 Pantani 269; 5 L Brochard (Fr) Festina 238; 6 Dufaux 212; 7 P Herve (Fr) Festina 176; 8 Escartin 141; 9 Riis 139; 10 Jimenez 136.