Armstrong braves rain, keeps lead

France's Mengin crashes

Bernucci stays up for win

Tour De France

July 08, 2005|By Diane Pucin | Diane Pucin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

NANCY, France - A native son rode without fear, a large and soggy Tour de France crowd roaring his name as he pedaled recklessly into his hometown.

But instead of being the toast of France, Christophe Mengin skidded out of control as he turned the final corner in yesterday's sixth stage. His only reward for a hard day's ride was a black eye and the feeling that he looked more like a boxer than a cyclist.

On a day darkened by low clouds and downpours, Tour contender Alexandre Vinokourov also set caution aside, racing hard behind Mengin and needing to put a foot down to avoid crashing himself. But Vinokourov stayed upright and his bravado helped him finish second to Italy's Lorenzo Bernucci and gain 19 seconds on overall leader Lance Armstrong. The T-Mobile rider from Kazakhstan moved from seventh to third, now 1 minute, 2 seconds behind Armstrong.

Armstrong, who finished 32nd, still wears the leader's yellow jersey and holds a 55-second lead over Discovery Channel teammate George Hincapie.

Armstrong's one-word response when asked what he had to say about Vinokourov's ride was telling. "Nothing," he said.

His rolling eyes and firm tone made that "nothing" into a complete statement, though. Armstrong was not going to act macho on a rainy day when taking big chances can result in big falls.

Still, Vinokourov, who pushed Armstrong in the mountains two years ago (he missed last year's Tour with a shoulder injury), made sure Armstrong noticed him.

But the day was ruined for the French fans when the 36-year-old Mengin, a 10-year pro whose one other big moment was a Tour stage win in 1997, came blazing around the final corner, about 700 meters from the finish, and had his bike slip away on white paint in a crosswalk.

Mengin had begun the day in 142nd place. He told French television reporters before the stage that he expected his local knowledge of the roads to help him. Mengin attacked early and rode at the front for miles. Yet even knowing the twists and turns didn't help Mengin when he flew around the corner.

"I didn't have great legs today," Mengin said, "but I had the courage to try something. That's life. You have to give 100 percent when you've got the chance."

About five other riders landed on Mengin, but Vinokourov and Bernucci snuck through. Bernucci, 25, from Bassa Bortolo, a Tour de France rookie, won the stage in 4:12.52 and afterward said, "I was lucky."

Vinokourov, 31, said he did not make his attack carelessly. "I picked my moment and would have won the stage if [Mengin] hadn't crashed," he said. "When he went down I had to brake and take a foot off the pedal."

Armstrong said his teammates learned by radio there was a pileup. "You get behind a crash like that, you just pick your way through it. It wasn't pretty."

Before today's 142-mile stage, from Luneville, France, to Karlsruhe, Germany, a moment of silence will be observed for the victims of the London bombings.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Results

Sixth stage

123.7 miles from Troyes to Nancy

1. L. Bernucci, Fassa Bortolo, 4 hours, 12 minutes, 52 seconds. 2. A. Vinokourov, T-Mobile, same. 3. R. Forster, Gerolsteiner, 7 seconds behind. 4. A. Furlan, Domina Vacanze, same. 5. T. Hushovd, Credit Agricole, same.

6. K. Kirchen, Fassa Bortolo, same. 7. G. Bortolami, Lampre, same. 8. E. Martinez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, same. 9. G. Glomser, Lampre, same. 10. K.-A. Arvesen, CSC, same.

11. L. Brochard, Bouygues Telecom, same. 12. J. Pineau, Bouygues Telecom, same. 13. M. Giunti, Fassa Bortolo, same. 14. O. Pereiro Sio, Phonak, same. 15. X. Zandio, Illes Balears, same.

16. B. Julich, CSC, same. 17. P. Weening, Rabobank, same. 18. E. Dekker, Rabobank, same. 19. J. Ullrich, T-Mobile, same. 20. S. Commesso, Lampre, same.

Also

31. G. Hincapie, Discovery Channel, same. 32. L. Armstrong, Discovery Channel, same. 33. Y. Popovych, Discovery Channenl, same. 36. C. Horner, Saunier Duval, same. 40. P. Savoldelli, Discovery Channel, same.

Overall standings

1. L. Armstrong, Discovery Channel, 17 hours, 58 minutes, 11 seconds 2. G. Hincapie, Discovery Channel, 55 seconds behind. 3. A. Vinokourov, T-Mobile, 1:02. 4. J Voigt, CSC, 1:04. 5. B. Julich, CSC, 1:07.

6. J. Luis Rubiera, Discovery Channel, 1:14. 7. Y. Popovych, Discovery Channel, 1:16. 8. B. Noval Gonzalez,Discovery Channel, 1:26. 9. I. Basso, CSC, 1:26. 10. K.A. Arvesen, CSC, 1:32.

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