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  Ullrich Holds Lead; U.S. Rider in Second

By Salvatore Zanca
Associated Press
Wednesday, July 22, 1998; 1:25 p.m. EDT

PLATEAU DE BEILLE, France — Defending champion Jan Ullrich held to his lead in the Tour de France, and Marco Pantani of Italy won today's stage in the Pyrenees mountains.

Pantani broke away from the Ullrich group going up the fifth and final major climb which took the cyclists to the 5,720-foot level.

Ullrich made no effort to chase Pantani, knowing the Italian trailed by nearly five minutes in the overall standings. Also, Ullrich was slowed by a flat tire.

Pantani caught leader Roland Meier of Switzerland with less than 5 miles to go and won his fifth career stage in the Tour de France, all mountain stages.

After pacing the small group of chasing up the final climb, Ullrich relaxed a little and finished eighth, 1 minute, 40 seconds behind Pantani. Ullrich lost seven seconds to a handful of others, including Bobby Julich of the United States.

Julich now trails Ullrich by 1 minute, 11 seconds in the overall standings. Pantani and Laurent Jalabert of France are just over three minutes back.

After a cool and foggy day on the first day in the mountains Tuesday, the hot weather returned with the temperatures above 86 degrees on the route.

There is a rest day on Thursday before the Tour resumes with a 137-mile leg from Tarascon-sur-Ariege to Cap d'Agde as the race slowly makes its way across southern France before hitting the Alps on Monday.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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