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Friday, July 23, 1999 Published at 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK

Mondini romps to personal best

Gianpaolo Mondini: Denied the French a win

Italian rider Gianpaolo Mondini has claimed one of the greatest triumphs of his career with a win in the 18th stage of the Tour de France.

Le Tour de France
The lanky rider took the 184.5km stage from Jonzac to the Futuroscope theme park with a brave sprint in the last 5km that put him clear of a lengthy 13-man breakaway.

BBC Radio's Simon Brotherton reports on the closing stages
French hope Jean-Cyril Robin came second after failing in his attempt to rein in the Italian, with Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan narrowly behind in third after a sprint for the line.

Lance Armstrong of the US, who has led the race from the early stages, retains his overall lead and the yellow jersey. He now looks virtually untouchable at the top.

French whitewash

Mondini's win is his most significant achievement since he turned pro in 1996. Since then he has only recorded five successes on the cycling circuit.

The 18th stage took on the air of a procession as none of the leads changed and teams proficiently marshalled their stars and kept them firmly at the top of their respective categories.

The absence of a French win in the Tour so far raised the spectre of only the second whitewash for the hosts since 1926.

But even that was not enough to provide the spark of excitement that was expected to add flavour to the closing stages of the race, as Robin thought briefly about an attack to catch Mondini then appeared to settle for second.

Stuart O'Grady of Australia, who is chasing green jersey holder Eric Zabel, had another dose of bad luck following his heavy fall on Thursday when he first suffered a puncture and was then involved in a three-bike crash.

Press allegations

If Zabel holds on to the points jersey until the finish on Sunday, he will win it for an unprecedented fourth consecutive time.

Simon Brotherton: "With two stages to go, there's been no French success"
The race was briefly halted and then shortened by 2.5km for the second day running as protesting wine growers blocked the route. On Thursday, firefighters forced the race to restart after 5.5km.

Meanwhile, mutterings in the French press about Tour riders and drug use continued.

The newspaper La Croix said that Spain, where the two leading teams - Banesto and ONCE - come from, was "somewhat behind the pump" when it comes to drug testing.

It also suggested that French riders undergo tougher testing regimes than cyclists from other countries.

Stage result
[ image:  ]

  • 1. Gianpaolo Mondini (Italy) Cantina Tollo 4 hours 17 minutes 43 seconds
  • 2. Jean-Cyril Robin (France) La Francaise de Jeux 3 seconds behind
  • 3. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazakhstan) Casino
  • 4. Mariano Piccoli (Italy) Lampre
  • 5. Claude Lamour (France) Cofidis
  • 6. Francois Simon (France) Credit Agricole
  • 7. Stefano Garzelli (Italy) Mercatone Uno
  • 8. Jorg Jaksche (Germany) Telekom
  • 9. Elio Aggiano (Italy) Vitalicio Seguros
  • 10. Thierry Bourguignon (France) Big Mat
  • 11. Cesar Solaun (Spain) Banesto
  • 12. Vicente Garcia-Acosta (Spain) Banesto all same time
  • 13. Frederic Bessy (France) Casino 14
  • 14. Robbie McEwen (Australia) Rabobank 3:07
  • 15. Erik Zabel (Germany) Telekom
  • 16. Stuart O'Grady (Australia) Credit Agricole
  • 17. Carlos da Cruz (France) Big Mat
  • 18. Christophe Capelle (France) Big Mat
  • 19. Jaime Hernandez (Spain) Festina
  • 20. Ludovic Auger (France) Big Mat all same time

General classification

  • 1. Lance Armstrong (USA/USP) 86hr 46min 20sec
  • 2. Fernando Escartin (Spa/KEL) at 06:15.
  • 3. Alex Zulle (Swi/BAN) 07:28.
  • 4. Laurent Dufaux (Swi/SAE) 10:30.
  • 5. Richard Virenque (Fra/PLT) 11:40.
  • 6. Daniele Nardello (Ita/MAP) 13:19.
  • 7. Angel Casero (Spa/VIT) 13:34.
  • 8. Abraham Olano (Spa/ONC) 14:29.
  • 9. Wladimir Belli (Ita/FES) 15:14.
  • 10. Kurt Van de Wouwer (Bel/LOT) 18:27.
  • 11. David Etxebarria (Spa/ONC) 19:31.
  • 12. Andrea Peron (Ita/ONC) 20:17.
  • 13. Benoit Salmon (Fra/CSO) 22:55.
  • 14. Roland Meier (Swi/COF) 23:37.
  • 15. Stephane Heulot (Fra/FDJ) 24:07.
  • 16. Tyler Hamilton (USA/USP) 25:24.
  • 17. Paolo Lanfranchi (Ita/MAP) 26:03.
  • 18. Carlos Contreras (Col/KEL) 26:46.
  • 19. Alberto Elli (Ita/TEL) 28:06.
  • 20. Georg Totschnig (Aut/TEL) 31:58.

Next stage
[ image:  ]

Saturday's time trial is the final showdown for the leaders, and the last chance for anyone else to make progress up the general classification.

The course is clockwise heading north before coming back into the theme park.

Whoever pulls on the yellow jersey at the end of Saturday's stage will be crowned the new Tour champion in Paris on Sunday.

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