Ullrich produces a tour de force

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The Independent Online
Jan Ullrich watched from the Tour de France podium yesterday as the yellow jersey, destined for his shoulders, arrived at the summit of the Arcalis mountain. Cedric Vasseur, the Frenchman who last week became the surprise wearer of the leader's colours, relinquished them like a champion on a day when no other rider could live with Ullrich.

Vasseur crossed the line seven minutes and 44 seconds after Ullrich's triumph 2,240 metres up in the Andorran Pyrenees, having twice fought his way back into a stage that lasted more than seven and three-quarter hours. Chris Boardman spent nearly eight and a half hours in the saddle as he arrived with more than 80 who had suffered over six mountains and 252 kilometres.

With his neck injury from Monday's fall it was a ride through hell for the British cyclist which plunged him more than one hour and 10 minutes behind the new leader in the overall standings. He finished the day in pain, and exhausted.

Vasseur, Boardman's team-mate, attacked his challengers on the final climb but was swallowed up as the main contenders opened up. Ullrich responded to the threat of the Frenchman Richard Virenque to storm home over the final 10 kilometres and finish one minute and eight seconds clear of Marco Pantani and Virenque.

The German holds a lead of nearly three minutes over Virenque and could be on his way to confirming last year's prediction by his team manager, Walter Godefroot. After Ullrich had shattered everyone with a 50kph-plus time trial through the vineyards of St Emilion in the Tour to finish second overall, the Belgian manager marked the 23-year-old as the 1997 winner.

Ullrich's attack left Bjarne Riis, his team captain and last year's Tour winner, stranded at 3:23 in his wake, but the Dane was content. "Jan was extraordinary," he said. "When he is in such shape he is the best, but the most important thing is for us to win this Tour. It will be either of us, and there are many stages to come. Whatever, we are going to win the Tour together."

Ullrich, the world amateur champion four years ago, is the first German to carry the colours since Klaus-Peter Thaler in 1978 and only the 10th since the first success by Kurt Stoepel in 1932. He is also the same age as the Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil, Laurent Fignon and Bernard Hinault when they won their first Tour.

The first 45 kilometres yesterday became a pilgrimage to pay homage at the memorial to Fabio Casartelli, the Italian rider who died after crashing on the Col de Portet d'Aspet two years ago. The riders stopped at the monument on the slopes of the mountain to observe a minute's silence as a floral tribute was laid.

TOUR DE FRANCE 10th stage (252 km, Luchon to Arcalis): 1 J Ullrich (Ger) Telekom 7hr 46min 7sec; 2 M Pantani (It) Mercatone Uno +1:08; 3 R Virenque (Fr) Festina +1:08 same time; 4 F Casagrande (It) Saeco +2:00; 5 B Riis (Den) Telekom +3:23; 6 L Dufaux (Swit) Festina same time; 7 J M Jimenez (Sp) Banesto +3:45; 8 F Escartin (Sp) Kelme; 9 A Olano (Sp) Banesto; 10 A Elli (It) Casino; 11 M Fincato (It) Roslotto; 12 P Lino (Fr) Big Mat; 13 R Conti (It) Mercatone Uno all same time; 14 P Luttenberger (Aut) Rabobank +4:02; 15 K Livingston (US) Cofidis +4:15. Others: 48 L Jalabert (Fr) ONCE +18:59; 58 M Sciandri (GB) FDJ +27:14; 151 C Boardman (GB) GAN +43:01.

Overall standings: 1 Ullrich 55hr 0min 54sec; 2 Virenque +2:38; 3 Olano +4:46; 4 Riis +4:53; 5 Pantani +5:29; 6 Escartin +5:46; 7 Dufaux +6:02; 8 O Camenzind (Swit) Mapei +7:00; 9 Casagrande +7:20; 10 C Vasseur (Fr) GAN +7:31; 11 Lino +7:41; 12 Luttenberger +8:02; 13 Jimenez +9:33; 14 D Nardello (It) Mapei +10:01; 15 Conti +10:20. Others: 29 Jalabert +24:32; 81 Sciandri +1:01:54; 94 Boardman +1:10:42. Points: 1 E Zabel (Ger) Telekom 254 pts; 2 F Moncassin (Fr) GAN 173; 3 J Blijlevens (Neth) TVM 159; 4 N Minali (It) BAT 121; 5 R McEwen (Aus) Rabobank 112. King of the mountains: 1 Virenque 209 pts; 2 Brochard 160; 3 Ullrich 138; 4 Pantani 100; 5 Casagrande. Teams: 1 Festina 165hr 17min 08sec; 2 Telekom +4:50; 3 Mercatone Uno +05:48; 4 Banesto +09:55; 5 Mapei +32:25.