Tour de France: Pereiro breakaway exposes Landis

One of easiest stages reveals the weakness of American's team and puts Spaniard in yellow

Yesterday's victory for the CSC rider Jens Voigt was almost completely overshadowed by the failure of the American Floyd Landis to retain the overall lead in the most unlikely circumstances.

The 230-kilometre trek through the foothills of the Cevennes was in theory one of the easiest of the second week, even if temperatures soared into the 40s in mid-afternoon and the road tarmac was bubbling under the peloton's wheels as they passed.

So when a five-man break containing theoretical non-favourites such as Voigt and the rider he outsprinted in Montélimar, Oscar Pereiro, went clear in the first hour, Landis's yellow jersey was expected to remain secure.

However, this year's race has been heavy on surprises, and as the clock ticked away after Voigt and Pereiro crossed the line, a sub-plot of the stage - that of Pereiro making inroads on the overall classification - suddenly mushroomed into the main event of the day.

Starting the day in 46th position, nearly 29 minutes behind Landis, Pereiro's chances of moving into yellow would usually be rated as minimal - which is precisely why he was allowed into the move in the first place.

However, Landis's squad, Phonak, then proved incapable of taking control of the race behind, or of finding allies willing to help them do so.

Instead, the bunch trundled in nearly half an hour down on the two stage leaders, and Pereiro found himself, contrary to all possible expectations, in yellow, with nearly 90 seconds advantage on Landis overall.

"It's a huge surprise, but a very welcome one for us," Pereiro, who rides for a Hispano-French team, Caisse D'Epargne-Iles Baleares commented afterwards.

"We lost our team leader Alejandro Valverde in the Ardennes because of a crash, so taking the jersey is definitely something to celebrate. Little by little, I started doing the maths during the stage, seeing if I could get the yellow jersey. Lord knows we had enough time to kill after attacking so early on. But really I never expected that I could actually do it." Landis remains the overall favourite for yellow in Paris, given that Pereiro suffered badly in the Pyrenees and the Alps are yet to come. Logic would dictate that he should crack, leaving the way open for the American once more.

But the Spaniard's success proves beyond all doubt that if the American himself is in top condition, his team are way too weak collectively to control the race - even on a stage with virtually no climbs.

The consequence is simple: the American's rivals will be rubbing their hands in anticipation of the inroads they can make on Landis's overall advantage in the three tough mountain stages to come. For the fans this development is more than welcome, following years of domination by Lance Armstrong.

In fact, all the 2006 Tour has in common with the Texan's seven-year hegemony is that an American is the major favourite - and like Armstrong, one spurred on by experience of a major health problem.

In Armstrong's case, suffering a life-threatening form of cancer prior to winning the Tour was what motivated him to greater success.

But in the 30-year-old Pennsylvanian's case, it is the knowledge that the slow but steady development of arthritis in his right hip, which will need replacement this autumn, could mean this is his last chance to win the Tour. But if no one can question Landis's motivation, the biggest problem for him is his team.

The American was completely isolated at the crunch moments in the Pyrenees, and with three Alpine stages to come, this hardly bodes well.

Whoever does win the Tour will also have to retain enough strength to fend off their rivals in a final long time-trial on Saturday. To judge from Landis's experience yesterday, no leader will be able to breathe easy beforehand. After so many Tours with the same winner, it is a welcome, and intriguing development in the race's history.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for Cycling Weekly

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home