Claudio Chiappucci and Greg LeMond were still five seconds apart Thursday after a sweltering 18th stage of the Tour de France changed little in the overall standings.
Gianni Bugno of Italy won the sprint to complete the 125.5-mile leg from Pau to Bordeaux as temperatures reached 104 degrees along the flat route. Bugno's time was 5 hours, 47 minutes, 33 seconds.While nothing was eventful on Thursday, LeMond survived a scare when a flat in Wednesday's 17th stage caused him to lose time to change wheels.
"I got really scared. I thought I lost the Tour de France right there. Especially when the pack accelerated and my teammates were ahead of me," LeMond said.
But word got through to them and with the help of his teammates LeMond was able to charge back into the pack. He made up more than a minute within five miles and wound up finishing in the same time as Chiappucci to remain five seconds back in the 21-stage competition.
The main pack finished far behind as Dimitri Konyshev became the first Soviet to win a stage in the Tour de France. Konyshev rides for an Italian team made up of nine Soviet riders living and training in Italy.
LeMond appears headed for his third straight title as he expects to make up the difference in the time trial at Lac de Vassiviere on Saturday.
LeMond has had difficulties between Tour de France victories. After his 1986 win, an accidental shooting and various misfortunes keep him out of the race the next two years.
But when he returned in 1989, he provided a storybook finish when he won on the last day with the thrilling time trial over Laurent Fignon.
Over the winter, publicity demands kept him from training then a virus slowed him even more in the spring.
Then, in the first stage of this year's race, four cyclists ambushed the field and got a 10-minute lead.
Despite everything, with four stages left in this year's race, LeMond is ready to wrap up the title as the race heads toward the final weekend.
After the Bordeaux stage and another flat stage today, there is the time trial in Lac Vassiviere.