As the riders took a day off yesterday in the mountain resort of Gap, Sciandri could not train with his Motorola team-mates. He injured a muscle behind his left knee on Tuesday, and yesterday stayed in bed. "Maybe 24 hours will make a difference, but it is not looking good," Motorola's general manager, Jim Ochowicz, said.
Lashed by rain, snow and high winds in the first 11 days, 45 riders have already quit, more than the total loss in several recent Tours. Now that the sun is out, the Tour contenders are steeling themselves. When will the Spanish storm break, and can the Tour leader, Bjarne Riis, ride it out?
Yesterday's rest day turned inquisition as the media's tour d'hotel went from one resting place to the next, seeking the answer. "If I don't have an off-day I can win," Riis said. "I feel strong enough, and for the first time I have a whole team working for me." The Dane is the team leader of Deutsche Telekom, who spotted his potential when Riis was third last year after Yevgeny Berzin, who was then his team leader, pulled out of the Gewiss squad because of bronchitis.
Everyone was wondering what Miguel Indurain had to do to clear his 4min 38sec deficit. "He must attack sometime," Tony Rominger said. "There are seven people ahead of him, and five who might crack." The Swiss rider is one of the seven, lying third, 53sec behind Riis and 13sec away from the second-placed Yevgeny Berzin. He did not name names. "I don't see Berzin as dangerous in the mountains but Riis is a different matter. He has surprised me a lot. In the Dauphine Libere race he was not brilliant, and now he is attacking at will."
Indurain hopes he has the solution to taking that record sixth yellow jersey. "I still think I can win, and so does my team," he said. "But I will have to work hard for it. Four minutes is a lot to make up in one go, but others will have to attack and I will try to take advantage of their efforts." Ten days away is a 63-kilometre time trial at St Emilion, and Spain's hero wants to start it with his deficit reduced to seconds. The next day he is due to ride into Paris clad in yellow.Reuse content