'I just controlled the race'

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The Tour de France leader, Bjarne Riis, allowed the Swiss Pascal Richard to win the 12th stage yesterday, content in the knowledge it made little difference to the overall standings.

"I just controlled the race," said Riis, who is moving closer every day to a final victory in Paris on July 21. "It's not over yet but so far, it's going just fine."

The Dane, however, was particularly worried about Miguel Indurain. The Spaniard, chasing a record sixth Tour win, lies eighth, over four minutes behind the leader.

"I don't know if there's something wrong with him but it's not my problem," Riis said.

Pascal Richard, a mountain specialist but also a useful sprinter, proved the fastest in the finish straight. "I had already attacked 25 kilometres from home with [Laurent] Roux and I thought I might be too tired to take part in the final sprint," said the Swiss, who is in his 10th year as a professional.

When Erik Breukink made a move in the last kilometre, Richard stayed at the back of the group and let other riders catch the Dutchman.

"I did that on purpose to make the other guys think that I was exhausted," he said. "I know I can be fast when I'm in a small group and I proved it."