Ullrich stirs German memories

TOUR DE FRANCE: Leader's team-mate steals limelight as race reaches penultimate stage. Robin Nicholl reports
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The Independent Online
It has taken 64 years for a German to finish in the top three of the Tour de France in Paris, and the wonder of this 1996 achievement is that Jan Ullrich is experiencing his first Tour. The 22 year old is also being tipped to win it next year.

"He has the all-round ability for it," his team manager, Walter Godefroot, said. That kind of confidence from the wily Belgian tactician will be noted in Germany where they can barely remember Kurt Stoepel finishing second to Andre Leducq of France in 1932.

Ullrich's talent was first noticed when, at 13, he earned a wunderkind rating, and was soon enrolled in Berlin's School of Sport. Three years ago he won the World Amateur Road Race Championship for Germany.

On the mountainous stage to Pamplona the previous day, Ullrich vaulted two places into second overall, aided by unselfish riding by Bjarne Riis, his team-mate and Tour leader. "Jan had worked hard for me throughout the Tour, and I saw my chance to help him," Riis said. So Godefroot has his Dane heading for the Paris podium in the yellow jersey of Tour No 1, and another of his Deutsche Telekom charges, Erik Zabel, is wearing the green jersey for points-scoring for consistently high placings.

Yesterday, however, Zabel suffered a rare setback when Frederic Moncassin, of France, edged him out in a mass sprint finish at Bordeaux.

After the dumplings of the Pyrenean climbs, this was a pancake course where riders could see miles ahead, with the landscape broken by lines of trees and thousands of spectators braising nicely on the tarmac.

Some of the 129 riders did their utmost to liven the 226 kilometres from Hendaye, but it has been a torment of a Tour with extremes of temperature and 25 mountains to ascend.

Zabel won the intermediate sprint ahead of Moncassin to keep his green jersey mission alive, then 50km from Bordeaux Gilles Talmant added himself to the list of attackers. Quickly he was joined by Marc Wauters, of Belgium, and 25km closer to the city they led by two minutes.

Telekom's Jens Heppner drove the chase to close down their lead, then Chris Boardman launched the final drive that drew them back, and set the stage for Moncassin.

The Frenchman won the opening race at Den Bosch in the Netherlands after being cut across by Italian Mario Cipollini, who was deprived of third place for his actions.

Then the Tour had 196 riders. Now 129 groggy souls are left to pedal into Paris, but first there is today's 63-km time trial into St Emilion and, many pray, the resurgence of Miguel Indurain.

TOUR DE FRANCE Stage 19 (Hendaye to Bordeaux, 226km, 141 miles): 1 F Moncassin (Fr) GAN 5hr 25min 11sec; 2 E Zabel (Ger) Deutsche Telekom; 3 F Baldato (It) MG Technogym; 4 D Abdoujaparov (Uzb) Refin; 5 M Piccoli (It) Brescialat; 6 S Biasci (It) SAECO; 7 I Cerioli (It) Gewiss; 8 A Tchmil (Ukr) Lotto; 9 A Ferrigato (It) Roslotto; 10 T Gouvenou (Fr) Aubervilliers; 11 F Andreu (US) Motorola; 12 P Indurain (Sp) Banesto; 13 B Boscardin (It) Festina; 14 F Simon (Fr) GAN; 15 J Blijlevens (Neth) TVM; 16 A Baronti (It) Panaria; 17 S Sunderland (Aus) Lotto; 18 F Echave (Sp) Mapei; 19 M Siboni (It) Carrera; 20 L Brochard (Fr) Festina all s/t. GB: 24 C Boardman GAN s/t. Overall: 1 B Riis (Den) Deutsche Telekom 91:8:43; 2 J Ullrich (Ger) Deutsche Telekom +3min 59sec; 3 R Virenque (Fr) Festina +4:25; 4 L Dufaux (Swit) Festina +5:52; 5 P Luttenberger (Aut) Carrera +6:19; 6 F Escartin (Sp) Kelme +7:23; 7 P Ugrumov (Lat) Roslotto +7:48; 8 L Leblanc (Fr) Polti +8:01; 9 A Olano (Sp) Mapei +11:12; 10 T Rominger (Swit) Mapei +11:24; 11 M Indurain (Sp) Banesto +15:36; 12 P Jonker (Aus) ONCE +17:39; 13 B Hamburger (Den) TVM +19:18; 14 L Piepoli (It) Refin +19:31; 15 A Elli (It) MG Technogym +20:46; 16 M Fernandez Gines (Sp) Mapei +21:37; 17 U Bolts (Ger) Deutsche Telekom +23:05; 18 M Bartoli (It) MG Technogym +30:37; 19 Brochard +31:32; 20 Y Berzin (Rus) Gewiss +37:22. GB: 43 Boardman +1hr 27min 33sec. Other categories: King of the Mountains (red polka dot jersey): 1 Virenque 383pts; 2 Riis 274; 3 Dufaux 176. Points (green jersey): 1 Zabel 313; 2 Moncassin 254; 3 Baldato 220.