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Big push has Ullrich riding high

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Any thoughts that Jan Ullrich was out of shape for this year's Tour de France have changed after the way he made the final climb in Tuesday's 10th stage.

Looking straight ahead, legs pumping like pistons, Ullrich moved away from the main pack and went after a small group of riders that had established a lead of more than five minutes on three previous climbs.He had to do the pacesetting chores by himself. But it didn't matter. He led the charge impressively, looking straight ahead, never faltering.

At the end of the stage, Ullrich was less than a minute behind Rodolfo Massi, who was trailing Ullrich by more than five minutes entering the day.

Although he came in eighth for the day, Ullrich still had enough of a lead over his major rivals to take over first place by 1 minute, 18 seconds over American Bobby Julich. Third was Bo Hamburger of Denmark, 2:17 behind.

Now the yellow jersey is back on the German, and it might be a long time before someone can take it away.

After two days of scorching heat, the Tour de France had a relatively cool day. Wednesday's 11th stage was more of the same, with five climbs, including the finish up 5,720 feet.

There is an off day on Thursday before the route continues slowly across southern France before reaching the Alps on July 27.

As the race entered the mountains, the winner of the top climber award for the last four years is missing.

Richard Virenque and the rest of the Festina team were kicked out of the race Friday night in the aftermath of the doping scandal that has plagued the Tour from the start.

The doctor for Festina, Erik Ryckaert, contended that his riders were ordered by their manager to pay for performance-enhancing drugs.

And now the Dutch TVM team is under suspicion. It was reported that the same drug used by the Festina team was found in the car of TVM officials in March.

The Tour has threatened to also ban the Dutch team if it is shown those riders took illegal drugs.

Ryckaert and team masseur Wily Voet are still under police custody and are expected to make a court appearance Friday.