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Tour de France Monday, 27 July, 1998, 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK
Pirate captures yellow jersey
Pantani celebrates a career first
Pantani celebrates a career first
After the 15th Stage the Tour de France has a new overall leader.

Marco Pantani took over the leader's yellow jersey from Jan Ulrich after a brilliant ride through the Alps and coming home at the end of a solo breakaway.

Previous race leader Jan Ullrich struggled through the climb
Ullrich struggled through the climb
The Italian known as 'Il Pirata' (the Pirate) finished 8 minutes 59 seconds ahead of the German.

He has a lead of 3 minutes 53 seconds over Bobby Julich, now riding in second place overall.

Climbing specialist

It is the first time in Pantani's career that he has worn the coveted yellow jersey and the seventh man to do so in this year's Tour.

Pantani is regarded as Italy's climbing specialist and was the winner of last month's Giro d'Italia.

"I knew Pantani was dangerous but I didn't think he could do what he did today," Julich said. "He made us all look silly."

Pantani tries the yellow jersey for size
Pantani tries the yellow jersey for size
Last year's winner, Jan Ullrich, had a miserable ride on the last two climbs of the day, suffering a puncture and struggling to complete the stage.

Challenging conditions

In foggy and wet conditions two of his teammates paced him to the finish.

The 189km stage challenged the riders with four major climbs in the assent from Grenoble to Les Deux Alpes, two of which are rated "out of category".

There are two more days in the Alps with an important time trial on Saturday. In the last trial, Ullrich gained 4 minutes 21 seconds in the first long time trial of the Tour.

Drugs scandal

Pantani said he hoped his efforts would deflect attention from the drugs scandal currently overshadowing the race.

"I have been deeply hurt by all the comments we have heard about doping" he said.

"Hopefully it will help the fans forget about them too."

TVM doctor and team director arrive at court
TVM doctor and team director arrive at court
Senior officials from the Dutch TVM team arrived at court in the northern town of Reims for further investigations following a drug seizure in the car of one of its officials in March.

Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc has said he will throw the TVM team out of the Tour, as he did with the Festina team, if there is evidence of prohibited drugs being used by the team.

In a separate development, Swiss Tour star Laurent Dufaux has admitted taking the performance enhancing EPO for more than 3 years, although he said he took it under "strict medical supervision."

Dufaux says he now fears that he and his team-mates would be made scapegoats for a much wider problem that has emerged in the sport.

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