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Thursday, July 16, 1998 Published at 01:42 GMT 02:42 UK


O'Grady wears the jersey, but Blijlevens wins the stage

Stuart O'Grady savours his Yellow Jersey triumph

The coveted leader's Yellow Jersey has passed to Stuart O'Grady - only the second time in history an Australian has worn it - but Jeroen Blijlevens won the gruelling fourth stage of the Tour de France.

The 24-year-old O'Grady, who is based in Toulouse, said that winning the Yellow Jersey was "my dream since I started cycling".

The only other Australian to win it was Phil Anderson in 1982. O'Grady said it was "very special to be the first since Anderson".


[ image: Blijlevens avoided a pile-up to win the stage]
Blijlevens avoided a pile-up to win the stage
Dutch cyclist Jeroen Blijlevens - his last name means 'good life' - is used to cycling success. This is the fourth year in a row that he managed to win a stage. This time it took more than 5 hours and 45 minutes to finish the 252km sprint - the longest stage of this year's tour.

The distance did not put him off. In fact, he said: "I can express myself better over distance."

He avoided a collision involving 10 others at a tight left-hand corner less than 3km from the finish.

Italian Nicola Minali was second and Czech Jan Svorda was third, with most of the rest eight seconds behind thanks to the pile-up.


[ image: Jacky Durand (left) and compatriot Damien Nazon]
Jacky Durand (left) and compatriot Damien Nazon
France's Jacky Durand and Damien Nazon led for much of the day, but their three-minute lead was gradually whittled away and with 20km left, the rest of the pack caught up.

Drugs allegations

Meanwhile, the head of the Festina team, Bruno Roussel, and the team's doctor, Eric Rijkaert, have been detained by French police in a continuing investigation into doping charges.

Police also searched the Festina team's hotel.

They arrested the team's masseur Willy Voet before the start of the Tour after he was found carrying 400 bottles of banned drugs while on his way to Ireland.

He said he was acting under orders from the Festina team.

The team's chief Bruno Roussel said on Tuesday he was "stunned" by the allegations, and in a statement he had asked the investigating judge to hear him as quickly as possible.

The director of the Tour de France has again said it would be out of the question to expel the Festina team.

"It would be unfair to the riders," he said.

But GAN's team director, Roger Legeay, who also chairs the association of professional cycling teams, said, "the race has been spoiled" and hoped for early action.

Festina's main sponsors, the Festina watch company, is threatening to break its contract if there is evidence of drug abuse.


[ image:  ]


Stage five of the Tour de France runs between Chôlet - "city of handkerchiefs" and Châteauroux. At 228.5km it is not as long as Wedesday's run.

Many of the tour's big names are lying well down the pack as the event moves deeper into the French countryside.

Last year's winner Jan Ullrich of Germany has moved up slightly but was still only 26th in this stage and is 22nd overall.

Frenchman and contender for the title Richard Virenque was in 29th position this stage and is 30th overall.



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In this section

Tour tarnished by drugs scandal

Pirate takes yellow treasure

The Pirate hangs on

Backstedt sprints into history

Two more charged with Tour doping

Riders fear truth warn authorities

Drugs scandal widens

Steels snatches sprint victory

Tour reaches new low

Obree: I was offered drugs on Tour

Ullrich edges out Pantani

Bigmat joins Tour drugs scandal

Pirate captures yellow jersey

O'Grady 'in Disneyland'

Nardello escapes the pack

Tour safe - for now

The Tour's surprise package

Steels claims stage win

Riders' protest delays Tour de France

Festina riders detained in doping row