Two-time champion Greg LeMond, with a powerful ride over the mountainous 16th stage, moved within 5 seconds of the overall lead in the Tour de France.
LeMond finished second today behind Spain's Miguel Indurian but cut 2 minutes, 19 seconds off Claudio Chiappucci's overall lead. LeMond was third entering today's stage, 2:24 behind the leader. There are five more stages to be contested."I'm not disappointed today. I feel very, very well," LeMond said.
LeMond, chasing Chiappucci since the Italian took the lead last Wednesday, pulled away over the final 4.2 uphill miles before faltering in the last 400 meters. Indurain won the 133.5-mile leg from Blagnac to Luz Arididen over three tough mountain passes in 7 hours, 4 minutes, 38 seconds.
Chiappucci was even with LeMond with 4.3 miles to go but faded in the final climb to finish more than two minutes back.
Wednesday's stage is another hill climb, 93-miles from Lourdes to Pau.
It was expected that the 16th stage would be a showcase for LeMond, who was far from the lead through the first two weeks.
In the first stage, four cyclists broke from the pack and gained a 10-minute lead on the rest of the field. It was early. None of the favorites or their teams responded. Besides, there were still 20 days and more than 2,000 miles to go.
It took awhile, but now the final rider of that four-man escape is about to be reeled in. Chiappucci's days wearing the yellow jersey are numbered, as were the others.
LeMond, Pedro Delgado and Eric Breukink headed into the Pyrenees section of the race all poised to move past Chiappucci.
The rest of Chiappucci's riders on that early escape had their moment in the sun or yellow jersey, but have faded.
Steve Bauer of Canada led for nine days, followed by Ronan Pensec of France for another two. Frans Maassen of the Netherlands was within seconds of the lead at one time.
Now it's time for the favorites to take contol.
Today's 16th stage was the third-longest of the tour and has some history. The first two passes were part of the first Pyrenees crossing in 1910.
LeMond had said the key to the race would be the final two mountain stages, especially today's route to Luz Ardiden.
LeMond did well in the previous difficult climb, up to l'Alpe d'Huez on Wednesday, finishing second. In fact, he has finished no worse than fifth in the four previous stages until he decided to stay in the pack Monday and finished 36th.
Charly Mottet of France won the relatively flat stage, averaging about 25 mph as the favorites stayed back, conserving themselves for the climb.
And what a climb it was.
Over the last quarter of the stage, three difficult peaks were scaled.