Masterful Indurain moves closer to fifth triumph

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The Independent Online
Cycling

ROBIN NICHOLLS

with the Tour de France

Bjarne Riis made Miguel Indurain's victory in the yesterday's time trial come uncomfortably close to defeat. In a battle of heavyweights in sweltering conditions the Dane, keen to regain the yellow jersey he had held for one day, actually had Indurain sweating.

Riis was five seconds faster than the Spaniard five kilometres from the finish of the 54km test from Huy to Seraing, which sits across the River Meuse from Liege.

Indurain poured out the power to beat Riis by 12 seconds and pull on the yellow jersey of Tour leader which he intends to be wearing in two weeks' time on the podium in Paris.

Riis, a matching build to the six-foot plus Indurain, was adamant that he could have won. "I received time checks on all my rivals except Indurain," he said. "I did not realise I was ahead by five seconds. If I had known, I'm sure I could have beaten him.

"A time-check then would have boosted my morale. Instead of which I fell away near the finish. Anyway, it was an unbelievable performance for me.

"Now I want to be the star of our team," Riis said, a strong hint that he feels better equipped for the Tour than Evgeny Berzin, his Russian team-leader. Berzin lost 1min 38sec on Indurain yesterday and is now 2min 20sec behind in the overall standings.

"I know I am going to be attacked a lot in the mountains," Indurain said, "so my aim was to put plenty of time between me and the climbers, particularly Richard Virenque and Marco Pantani. I certainly lost some energy after my breakaway on Saturday, but counting that stage where I was second and the time trial result, my tactics have succeeded."

Indurain has succeeded in putting two to four minutes between himself and the pre-race contenders. Tony Rominger, third yesterday, 58 seconds slower than Indurain, has an uphill task and not just because the mountains are looming.

TOUR DE FRANCE Seventh stage (from Charleroi to Liege, 203km): 1 J Bruyneel (Bel) ONCE 4hr 48min 14sec; 2 M Indurain (Sp) Banesto s/t; 3 J Skibby (Den) TVM + 50sec; 4 J Heppner (Ger) Telekom-ZG; 5 G Lombardi (It) Polti; 6 L Jalabert (Fr) ONCE; 7 B Thibout (Fr) Castorama; 8 F Simon (Fr) Castorama; 9 B Hamburger (Den) TVM; 10 A Ferrigato (It) Telekom-ZG; 11 A Lecchi (It) Brescialat; 12 M Fondriest (It) Lampre; 13 L Brochard (Fr) Festina; 14 A Mejia (Col) Motorola; 15 V Poulnikov (Ukr) Telekom-ZG; 16 B Riis (Den) Gewiss Ballan; 17 G Bouvard (Fr) Chazal; 18 Z Jaskula (Pol) AKI Gipiemme; 19 J Bernard (Fr) Chazal; 20 M Mauri (Sp) ONCE all s/t. British placings: 83 M Sciandri (GB-MG Technogym) +6min 29sec. 98 S Yates (GB) Motorola +11min 1sec.

Eighth stage (Huy to Seraing, 54km time-trial): 1 Indurain 1hr 4min 16sec (ave speed 50.409kph); 2 Riis +12 sec; 3 T Rominger (Swit) Mapei Clas +58; 4 Y Berzin (Rus) Gewiss Ballan +1min 38sec; 5 Mauri +2:16; 6 Jalabert +2:36; 7 Bruyneel +3:01; 8 Thibout +3:33; 9 E Breukink (Neth) ONCE +3:48; 10 A Zulle (Swit) ONCE +3:56; 11 I Gotti (It) Gewiss Ballan +4:04; 12 V Aparicio (Sp) Banesto +4:17; 13 Jaskula +4:25; 14 M Rojas (Sp) ONCE +4:34; 15 A Elli (It) MG Technogym +4:53; 16 A de las Cuevas (Fr) Castorama +4:58; 17 Y Ledanois (Fr) Gan +4:59; 18 C Chiappucci (It) Carrera +5:06; 19 L Armstrong (US) Motorola +5:09; 20 T Marie (Fr) Castorama +5:14. British placings: 56 M Sciandri +7:53; 140 S Yates +11:50.

Leading overall standings: 1 Indurain 32hr 35min; 2 Riis +23 sec; 3 Berzin +2min 20sec; 4 Bruyneel +2:30; 5 Rominger +2:32; 6 Jalabert +2:47; 7 Mauri +2:48; 8 Gotti +4:19; 9 Zuelle +4:29; 10 Breukink +5:11; 11 Aparicio +5:23; 12 Rojas +5:42; 13 Thibout +6:09; 14 Elli +7:48; 15 L Brochard (Fr) Festina +8:17; 16 J Mauleon (Sp) Mapei Clas +8:24; 17 Chiappucci +8:29; 18 Fernando Escartin (Sp) Mapei Clas +8:35; 19 G Bugno (It) MG Technogym +8:37; 20 De las Cuevas +8:42. British placings: 60 Sciandri +15:51; 115 Yates +30:55.

Points classification (green jersey): 1 Jalabert 160 pts; 2 D Abdoujaparov (Uz) Novell 151; 3 M Cipollini (It) Mercatone Uno +108. King of the Mountains leaders (red polka dot jersey): 1 R Virenque (Fr) Festina 38 pts; 2 A Kasputis (Lith) Chazal 30; 3 D Konyshev (Rus) AKI Gipiemme 30. Overall team leaders: 1 Gewiss Ballan 97hr 50min 46 sec; 2 ONCE +2min 34sec; 3 Banesto +8:30.

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