WINTERGREEN, Va. -- When riders were lining up to start Stage 6 of the Tour Du Pont, billed as "America's Greatest Cycling Event," America's greatest cycler was proving his worth as a prognosticator.
"When this stage is over, Atle will be the winner and Alexi will bright with him," said Greg LeMond.
And when it was over, five hours, nine minutes and 43 secondlater, "Z" rider Atle Kvalsvoll of Norway was the winner. And Alexi Grewal was 59 seconds back, good enough for a third-place finish.
Only a big effort by Helvetia's Fabian Jeker, who finishesecond, kept LeMond's prediction from perfection.
"Right now, Atle is climbing better than anyone here," said Grewal. "No one can stay with him right now. But there is a week to go. It could change."
Perhaps, but when Kvalsvoll won yesterday in Stage 6, he also earned the yellow jersey, denoting the overall leader of the race. He replaced American Greg Oravetz of Coors Light, who finished 50th yesterday and dropped to 20th overall, two minutes behind.
And with the way the "Z" team performed around Kvalsvoll, there is little doubt it is out to win the Tour.
"Yeah, I plan to keep the yellow jersey until the end," saiKvalsvoll, who was runner-up in this race last year. "I know I am in very good shape and hope to hold it. For me, it is good we are in the hills."
All day long, "Z" riders led the attack. When Canadian DaviSpears and Tonton-Tapis rider Gino De Backer broke away from the field at mile 49 of the 112-mile race, it was Z's grand old man, 36-year-old Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, who led the pack on a relentless attack.
"For us, tactics were very important," said Kvalsvoll, 29. "Wwere always on the attack. We have a lot of of very good riders on this team and they all worked for me. Duclos-Lassalle went out alone for nearly 20-25 K (12 to 15 miles) to set the pace and end the breakway. It was very relaxing for me to have so many men working for me.
"The plan was to come to the last hill with no one in front of me. Then it was up to me to do the rest of the job."
Kvalsvoll also earned the mountain leader's jersey . . . American Coors Light rider Davis Phinney retained the sprint leader jersey . . . American amateur Bobby Julich was again named best young racer, with his 12th-place finish yesterday, 1:52 off Kvalsvoll's 5:09:43 pace. He is still in the top 10 overall, at sixth.
Soviet rider Vladislav Bobrike, who held the leader's jersey for 1days last year, had his best performance of this Tour, finishing sixth, 1:16 back. He is now 13th overall.
Nate Reiss, of the Subaru Montgomery USA team, fell and broke his right arm 7 miles from the finish but completed the race and plans to keep competing.