. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Indurain Eyes Attack As Tour Nears Spain

VILLENEUVE-SUR-LOT, France -- Veteran Italian Massimo Podenzana used the last stage before arduous climbs in the Pyrenees to score his first stage win in the Tour de France on Monday.


The 34-year-old Podenzana escaped from a group of six front-runners with 10 kilometers remaining to claim the day's 15th stage over 176 kilometers from Tulle.


He crossed the line in Villeneuve-sur-Lot 37 seconds ahead of Italian Giuseppe Guerini in second place, with Belgian Peter Van Petegem third a further 13 seconds back.


Dane Bjarne Riis stayed quietly in the pack, which came in more than five minutes later, to retain the race leader's yellow jersey.


Strenuous climbs and painful memories await riders in the Pyrenees, where Miguel Indurain will have one last chance to force himself into a winning position.


The five-time winner, who had a rare off-day in the Alps, dropping to eighth place overall more than four minutes behind Riis, is looking forward to three stages in mountains he knows by heart, including one in his home region of Navarra.


But there will be a sad note, as it was in the Pyrenees that Olympic champion Fabio Casartelli of Italy was killed last year in a crash coming down the Portet d'Aspet pass.


As the Tour nears Spain, where he would have loved to arrive with the yellow jersey on his shoulders, Indurain knows it will be tough for him to earn another line in the record books.


"The guys in front of me look strong, but I haven't lost yet," he said. "What happened to me in the Alps was because of all the rain and cold. Now it's sunny at last, and I feel much better."


The first of the three stages in the Pyrenees, which will take the riders to the resort of Hautacam on Tuesday, is fondly remembered by the Spaniard, who used the final, punishing climb to seal his fourth triumph two years ago.


All his pursuers had cracked, but he had managed to stay just behind Frenchman Luc Leblanc, who won the stage and will be one to watch again Tuesday.


But the stage in which Indurain dreams of shining is the next one, on Wednesday, which finishes in Pamplona, near Villava, where his parents have a farm.


That stage -- more than 262 kilometers -- will be the longest of the 1996 Tour and one of the toughest with no fewer than seven passes, including the awesome Puerto de Larrau on the Spanish border.


When the Tour leaves the Pyrenees on Thursday to head for Hendaye on the French Basque coast, Indurain will probably know whether he can still win the race.


"I know I have to attack, and there will be opportunities in the stages to Hautacam and Pamplona and even in the one to Hendaye," he said. "But I will have to choose the right moment."


The stages in the Pyrenees, which cross the Basque country, are anxiously awaited by the Tour organizers, who have received threats from ETA separatists.


(For other results, see Scorecard.)