After three days of flat stages and a relaxed atmosphere on the Tour de France, most of the riders got ready for some serious racing today as the event headed into the Pyrenees.
Today's 15th stage from Perpignan to Andorra had the most climbs of any Tour stage - nine - with the 7,897-foot Port d'Envalira the highest.Tony Rominger took both stages in the Alps last week, leaving behind all the riders except one - defending champion Michael Indurain. The two-time champion was right behind both times, losing nothing on the clock and seemingly letting up to allow Rominger the stage victories.
Overall, Indurain led by 3:23 over Alvaro Mejia of Colombia. Zenon Jaskula of Poland was third with Rominger fourth.
"I am expecting an explosive stage (Monday) because it is the day before a rest day," said Mejia. "Something will happen."
Two more climbing stages are set for Wednesday and Thursday.
Indurain has a lead of 5:44 on Rominger, who moved up from 20th place during the stage in the Alps. He didn't gain any time on Indurain but everyone else lost time to them.
Rominger trained for a month in the high altitude of Colorado just before the Tour, and it showed. Now Rominger has three more days of mountains in another attempt to close the gap. It will probably be his last chance.
Thursday and Friday are two flat stages, and Saturday is another time trial in which Indurain will be favored. The race ends Sunday after completing a 2,312-mile loop around the country.
Pascal Lino became the first French winner of this year's race Sunday by capturing the 14th stage as most of the favorites stayed back in the pack, more than 16 minutes behind.
Lino won in a sprint over Italy's Giancarlo Perini. The pair broke away from Johan Bruyneel of Belgium and two Italians, Mario Chisea and Gianni Faresin in the final part of the 139-mile Montpellier to Perpignan stage.
The main pack with all the favorites, including Indurain, finished more than 16 minutes behind with no change in the leader board.
Lino had the lead in last year's Tour de France for 11 days.