Dutchman dims leading lights

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Jeroen Blijlevens made his mark on the Tour de France with victory on a day that left some notables feeling like marked men.

The Dutchman whose name means "beautiful life" outwitted fast movers such as Super Mario - Mario Cipollini - and the Tashkent Express, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, in a massed sprint finish at Dunkirk.

With Ivan Gotti, unknown until Wednesday, entering his second day in the yellow jersey by one second, and Blijlevens denting a few reputations yesterday, a new era has arrived.

Blijlevens held off the Slovakian, Jan Svorada, with Cipollini and Abdoujaparov fighting for the minor placings in their duel for the green points jersey.

"I proved that you don't have to be well-built like Cipollini and Abdoujaparov to win sprints," he said. Since April, a tempting offer from the leading Italian team, Carrera, has been nagging at him and after this eighth win of the year it will not go away.

Cipollini and Abdoujaparov tied on points overnight, but the Italian six-footer wears the green colours because of yesterday's tie-breaking fifth place to Abdu's seventh. They spent yesterday fencing for points at the intermediate sprints, and came out with a draw as the race rolled through land familiar to conflict, ranging from Crecy and Agincourt to the Second World War.

The Belgian, Wilfried Nelissen, a victim in the Armentieres debacle last year, retired after a brave effort to ignore a swollen knee damaged in Wednesday's crash at Le Havre. And second-day winner Fabio Baldato pulled out because of his facial injuries suffered in the same pile-up.

Yet if awards were given for suffering, Castorama would be undisputed No 1. The DIY supermarket chain end their sponsorship in August, and after a win on the opening day from Jacky Durand, nothing went well.

Sickness has weakened some of their riders. Then yesterday came the crashes. Bruno Thibout and Armand de las Cuevas, who had fractured a collarbone in May, fell together.

Then Durand was thrown when his back wheel slipped on a corner and a team car narrowly missed him. He rode in six and a half minutes in arrears, and has plummeted to 171st.

TOUR DE FRANCE Fifth stage (Fecamp to Dunkirk, 261km, 163 miles) Leading positions: 1 J Blijlevens (Neth) TVM 5hr 51min 46sec; 2 J Svorada (Slovak) Lampre; 3 E Zabel (Ger) Telekom-ZG; 4 F Moncassin (Fr) Novell; 5 M Cipollini (It) Mercatone Uno; 6 D Konyshev (Rus) AKI Gipiemme; 7 D Abdoujaparov (Uzbek ) Novell; 8 D Zanette (It ) AKI Gipiemme; 9 L Jalabert (Fr) ONCE; 10 F Andreu (US) Motorola; 11 B Boscardin (It) Festina; 12 T Marie (Fr) Castorama; 13 M de Clercq (Bel) Lotto; 14 A Tchmil (Rus) Lotto; 15 A Gontchenkov (Ukr) Lampre; 16 J Heppner (Ger) Telekom-ZG; 17 Y Ledanois (Fr) GAN; 18 C Capelle (Fr) GAN; 19 T Hoffman (Neth) TVM; 20 S Martinello (It) Mercatone Uno all same time. British placings: 109 M Sciandri MG Technogym s/t; 167 S Yates Motorola +2:43

Leading overall standings: 1 I Gotti (It) Gewiss Ballan 22hr 10min 52sec; 2 B Riis (Den) Gewiss Ballan +1sec; 3 M Mauri (Sp) ONCE +17; 4 A Zulle (Swit) ONCE +18; 5 J Bruyneel (Bel) ONCE +24; 6 Y Berzin (Rus) Gewiss Ballan +27; 7 F Frattini (It) Gewiss Ballan +30; 8 Jalabert +34; 9 B Cenghialta (It) Gewiss Ballan +43; 10 M Indurain (Sp) Banesto +50; 11 V Aparicio (Sp) Banesto +51; 12 M Rojas (Sp) ONCE +53; 13 G Colombo (It) Gewiss Ballan +54; 14 E Breukink (Neth) ONCE +1:08; 15 A Gonzales (Sp) Mapei GB +1:16; 16 T Rominger (Swit) Mapei GB +1:19; 17 J Mauleon (Sp) Mapei GB +1:30; 18 F Escartin (Sp) Mapei GB +1:31; 19 J R Uriarte (Sp) Banesto +1:33; 20 A Tafi (It) Mapei GB +1:40. British standings: 26 Sciandri +2:04; 98 Yates +5:34. Points classification: 1 Cipollini 106 pts; 2 Abdoujaparov 103; 3 Jalabert 90. King of the Mountains: 1 Konyshev 24pts; 2 R Virenque (Fr) Festina 23; 3 F Simon (Fr) Castorama 16. Overall team leaders: 1 Gewiss Ballan (It) 66hr 31min 46sec; 2 ONCE (Sp) +1:28; 3 Banesto (Sp) +3:40.