Blijlevens Wins Stage; O'Grady Grabs Overall Lead
By Salvatore Zanca
Wednesday, July 15, 1998; 12:04 p.m. EDT
O'Grady won two intermediate sprints during the day to gain the leader's yellow jersey.
He is the second Australian to lead in the history of the race. Phil Anderson had the yellow jersey during Tours in 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1985.
The 127-mile stage from Plouay to Cholet required 5 hours, 45 minutes. There was a fall in the middle of the pack around a tight corner less than two miles from the finish, eliminating a few of the top sprinters.
Blijlevens won the sprint for his fourth individual stage victory. Nicola Minali of Italy was second and Jan Svorada of the Czech Republic was third.
Bo Hamburger had the yellow jersey entering the day, just two seconds ahead of George Hincapie, the American cycling champion from Charlotte, N.C.
Yet O'Grady, with the help of 12 bonus seconds, became the fourth rider to hold the yellow jersey in the five days of racing.
O'Grady's lead was especially satisfying for the GAN team after Chris Boardman, who won the prologue and held the yellow jersey for a day, crashed out Monday. He is recovering from a concussion and cuts and bruises.
Thursday's fifth stage is from Cholet to Chateauroux, covering 142 miles and moving toward central France.
The drug controversy involving the Festina team continued. The team's main sponsor, the Festina watch company, is threatening to leave the team if there is evidence of drug use among the riders.
Last week a Belgian member of Festina's team was arrested after police found a large quantity of performance-enhancing drugs in the Festina car he was driving.
According to judicial sources, after first admitting the drugs were for personal use, the man changed his account and said they were for the team. On Tuesday, the Festina team denied the accusation.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press