This was no day of rest for challengers in the Tour de France. It was a time to look for ways to catch Tour de France leader Miquel Indurain.

They've haven't so far.As the Tour enters its final week, Indurain has his fifth consecutive title virtually locked up. Only sickness or an accident can keep Indurain from entering the history books as the first rider to win five in a row.

Belgian Eddy Merckx and Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault are the other five-time winners, but none ever put together a string to match the Spaniard.

The race begins two days in the mountains on Tuesday, then features an individual time trial on Saturday. The race ends in Paris on July 23 after completing a clockwise loop of approximately 2,254 miles.

The challengers may take their chances and try to make breakaways, but all Indurain has to do is accelerate in the final miles to limit the margin and wait for the next day.

Indurain turned 31 on Sunday and celebrated this birthday the same way he has done in the last few years - wearing the leader's yellow jersey.

He came in third in Sunday's 14th stage on the 101-mile leg from St. Orens de Gameville to Guzet-Neige to maintain his lead.

Italy's Marco Pantani took the stage as the race came to the edge of the Pyrenees.

The 25-year-old Pantani, third in last year's Tour, won the difficult L'Alpe d'Huez mountain stage last week. He attacked over the last 25 miles, with four climbs of varying degrees left in the stage.

He built an advantage of almost three minutes over the pack entering the final climb, which as a category one section ranks among the toughest under the Tour definition of steepness, length and difficulty.

With rain and fog over the last hour of the race, Pantani won by 2 minutes, 31 seconds over Laurent Madouas of France.

Pantani moved to seventh overall, but is still a daunting 10:07 behind Indurain.

Indurain was in the main pack until the last 21/2 miles, when he accelerated and almost caught Madouas at the finish. Alex Zulle of Switzerland, runner-up in the overall standings, sprinted with Indurain but lost a couple seconds and now trails by 2:46.

"I wasn't afraid of the attack of Pantani because he was still down in the standings," Indurain said. "But I was afraid of falls because of the rain and fog."

Laurent Jalabert of France remained third overall, but lost almost a minute to fourth-place Bjarne Riis of Denmark.

"As to the others, I am controlling them," Indurain said. "It's a cat-and-mouse game and Jalabert is starting to pay for his efforts."