Cyclist Fulfills Potential With Breakaway Win

LA PLAGNE, France -- Bespectacled Alex Z--lle may have a problem with his sight but there was nothing wrong with his tactical vision as he swept to a glorious win in the first Alpine stage of this year's Tour de France.

The 26-year-old Swiss, who three years ago was being hailed as a future cycling great, seemed to be heading down the road followed by other potential champions who never quite made the grade.

Time is still on Z--lle's side. Miguel Indurain turns 31 during the Tour and Tony Rominger is 34.

More noted for his frequent falls, caused mostly by the difficulty of riding in eyeglasses, than for his victories, Z--lle had started the Tour in typical fashion, crashing in the prologue when he had to start in the rain.

A crash had cost Z--lle overall victory in the Tour of Spain two years ago when he had to give way to Rominger.

Yet the fun-loving Z--lle, who confesses to a taste for parties, beer and siestas, never doubted his huge ability.

His 100-kilometer breakaway in the Alps, the last 60 ridden on his own in the searing heat, earned him a magnificent first stage win in the Tour and even put the apparently invincible Indurain under severe pressure.

Z--lle, who wore the yellow jersey for just one brief day two years ago, moved up to second and is the only rider in any position to challenge Indurain.

"I lost a lot of time in Sunday's time trial and I was hungry for revenge today," he said afterward.

"While Indurain is in the race, it will be extremely difficult for me to win. This is the Tour de France, not any old race.

"But the gaps I've opened up on the other favorites like Tony Rominger and Yevgeny Berzin allow me play a waiting game from now on. There's no way Indurain will allow me to attack again.

"Anyway, there's a long way to go till Paris."