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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pantani Wins Tough Tour Climb

L'ALPE D'HUEZ, France -- Italy's Marco Pantani won the toughest stage of this year's Tour de France on Wednesday as the race reached its half-way mark with the 10th stage, Miguel Indurain easily keeping the overall lead.


Indurain continued his remarkable showing by coming in second, just ahead of Alex Z--lle and Bjarne Riis, second and third in the overall standings.


In the past four stages, Indurain has been second, first, second and second -- all in different circumstances.


The stage, 163 kilometers, had three major climbs, all more than 1,800 meters and all rated "out of category," ending with l'Alpe d'Huez and its 21 hairpin curves up the final 15 kilometers with a slope of 8.3 percent.


As usual, everything was played out on the final climb and relayed through the thousands of fans that lined the narrow roads overnight.


Pantani, who missed 26 days of training after an auto accident in the spring, made the first thrust shortly after the start and caught the small group of riders that had built up a minute lead.


Only Ivan Gotti, who held the yellow jersey for a couple of days, was able to stay with him for a while as the others slowly dropped off the pace.


With 10 kilometers left, Pantani was alone. Behind him, Indurain's Benesto teammates were starting to lead the chase to limit the gap. But Pantani started the day more than 14 minutes behind in 11th place.


Indurain again took off and took Z--lle with him. Together they caught the small group of one-time leaders with four kilometers left.


Riis also went with them and the trio started to approach Pantani who began to fade in the final two kilometers but still held on for the individual victory.


More than a minute later Indurain led the final sprint among the three contenders with Z--lle and Riis trailing.


Before the main group reached the mountains, the Tour was heavy with dropouts: Mario Cippolini, who had won two stages on the flats; Maricio Fondriest, a former world champion; Jacky Durand, who held the lead after the opening prologue; and Yevgeny Berzin of Russia, expected to mount a challenge to Indurain.


Thursday's stage of 199 kilometers is from Bourg d'Oisans to St. Etienne.





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Last year's Tour of Italy winner, Berzin, riding for the Gewiss Ballan team, also came to grief in the first mountain stage of the Tour de France on Tuesday, losing more than 17 minutes on winner Z--lle.


Berzin, 25, who was dropped by the leaders on the Col des Saisies, the first of the day's three major climbs, finished in 32nd place and dropped from third to 21st and out of contention in the overall standings.


"I had no legs today. I don't know why," Berzin said. "Maybe the rest day yesterday upset my rhythm. I don't know.


"When I was dropped, [team mate] Bruno Cenghialta came to help me, but I soon realized I couldn't catch up and when I understood my legs had gone, I told him to go on ahead."


(AP, Reuters)