Ullrich Takes Overall Lead in Tour de France
By Salvatore Zanca
Tuesday, July 21, 1998; 3:26 p.m. EDT
The defending champion charged up the final mountain to regain the yellow jersey. And it might be a long time before someone takes it away.
He finished eighth in Tuesday's 10th stage but had enough of a lead over his major rivals to claim first place, 1 minute, 18 seconds ahead of Bobby Julich of the United States.
Third was Bo Hamburger of Denmark, 2:17 behind. Rodolfo Massi of Italy took the stage but he was trailing Ullrich by more than five minutes entering the day. Marco Pantani, the winner of the Tour of Italy, was second.
Ullrich's strong showing came on a day of further revelations in a drug scandal that is overshadowing cycling's showcase event.
A doctor for the banned Festina team contends that his riders were ordered by their manager to pay for performance-enhancing drugs.
And now the Dutch TVM team is under suspicion. It was reported that the same drug used by the Festina team was found in the car of TVM officials in March.
The Tour, which already has ejected Festina, threatens to do the same to the Dutch team if it is shown those riders took illegal drugs.
Ullrich, who won Saturday's time trial, finished in a small group less than a minute behind Massi. He made his move at the start of the final climb up the Peyresourde.
"Today was a difficult day with the changing weather and the attack of Pantani,'' Ullrich said. "But I'm not afraid of the mountains because I am very happy with my physical condition.''
Earlier in the year, there were questions about his weight. However, as he donned the yellow jersey again, he looked in perfect condition.
He led the charge impressively, swallowing up the early riders that had led throughout the day.
Laurent Desbiens of France, who had the lead for two days, ended up 16th on the day, more than 26 minutes behind Ullrich. He dropped to 61st overall.
Julich stayed with Ullrich's group and is now second overall.
"I felt great,'' he said. "I'm in a really good position. I had a good time trial (third) and I've had a good first stage in the mountains (fourth).''
After two days of scorching heat, the Tour de France had a relatively cool day.
A light drizzle greeted the riders in the morning as they left Pau at the beginning of the 10th stage from Pau to Luchon, a 123-mile leg.
There were a number of falls, including one by former leader Stuart O'Grady of Australia. Francesco Casagrande of Italy also tumbled and was taken away in an ambulance. Casagrande, who finished sixth last year, is Julich's teammate on the French Cofidis team.
"Now it's all on my shoulders,'' Julich said. "I would have preferred to share the burden.''
Wednesday's 11th stage is more of the same with five climbs, including the finishing ascent of 5,720 feet.
The riders get an off day on Thursday before the race continues across southern France, reaching the Alps on Monday.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press