Tour 'Back Home' After Dramatic Irish Swing
By Shawn Pogatchnik
Tuesday, July 14, 1998; 8:33 a.m. EDT
CORK, Ireland It took two years of planning, but the Tour of France's first sojourn through Ireland had plenty of drama in just three days.
Erik Zabel of Germany, the doyen of sprinters who has never won a Tour stage, donned the leader's yellow jersey for the first time Monday night in Cork after managing three high-placed finishes on Ireland's often wet but gentle-sloped terrain.
Chris Boardman of Britain achieved his goal of winning the yellow jersey on opening day with a dominant prologue performance through Dublin. But he then surrendered it to Zabel after crashing 35 miles from Monday's finish line after bumping into a Gan teammate.
While the remaining 186 cyclists were flown to Brittany to continue the race today on French soil, Boardman remained in Cork University Hospital with a fractured wrist, a gashed forehead, and another nightmare conclusion to a Tour campaign to contemplate.
The 1992 Olympic pursuit gold medalist won the yellow jersey on his 1994 Tour debut and held it for two days a model of consistency he's never managed since.
In 1995 he smashed his ankle in the opening prologue and withdrew. In 1996 he struggled his way past more wounds to finish in 37th place. And in 1997, after winning yellow once again on prologue day, he retired with a twisted spinal column 12 days later.
Boardman, 29, was expected to be discharged from hospital this morning.
For defending tour champion Jan Ullrich of Germany, his Irish performances confirmed that the 24-year-old had worked off all the extra pounds he'd put on in the off-season.
Ullrich never pushed himself to full throttle during any of the races, but accrued points in workmanlike fashion to stand in eighth place overall, just 9 seconds behind Telekom teammate Zabel.
For the No. 1-ranked French team Festina, Ireland provided temporary sanctuary from a scandal certain to dog it back home.
As Festina's riders powered their way to three of the top 10 spots in Saturday's prologue, director Bruno Roussel found himself live on French television having to explain why one of his staff had been arrested on the French-Belgian border in possession of performance-enhancing drugs.
While Lance Armstrong's continuing recuperation from cancer kept him from competing in this year's Tour, Bobby Julich of the French Cofidis team launched his campaign to become the next American to challenge the Europeans.
Julich, 27, of Glenwood Springs, Colo., finished fourth in the prologue, 45th in the first stage and 44th Monday, putting him in fourth place overall. He finished a surprising 17th in the 1997 Tour.
But the biggest tests for this 85th Tour, as always, will come when the riders hit the Pyrenees and Alps mountain ranges in successive weeks. The race concludes Aug. 2 with the traditional sprint down Paris's Champs Elysee.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press