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