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Culture

Trio Battles it out for Yellow in Tour de France

The showdown in the Pyrenees between Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich just got hotter after third-seated Alexander Vinokourov launched his attack in the 14th stage. Only 18 seconds separates the trio from one another.

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Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan is putting the heat on Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich.

Jan Ullrich, Lance Armstrong and Alexander Vinokourov are battling it out for yellow in the Pyrenees.

After a second day of head-to-head racing between Ullrich, who gave the fight of his life on Friday and Saturday, and top-ranked Armstrong, the race for the yellow jersey kicked up a notch in the 14th stage as Vinokourov pushed ahead, taking 43 seconds off the leading duo.

Vinokourov, third in the overall tour standing, produced one of his best rides on Sunday. Eight kilometers short of the stage’s last hill at the Peyresourde pass, he launched an all-out attack and crossed the finish line in Loudenvielle sixth, 41 seconds behind the stage’s surprise winner Gilberto Simoni of Italy.

Narrowing the lead

At the end of the 191.5 kilometer race over six climbs, Armstrong, who came in 11th with Ullrich trailing right behind him, just barely managed to hold onto his first-place seating. Now only 18 seconds separate him from third-placed Vinokourov. The distance between Ullrich and Vinokourov is even more precarious: just three seconds.

Ullrich was speechless after seeing his hopes for the yellow jersey once again slip out of his reach. His team manager Rudy Pevenage told reporters he didn’t understand why Ullrich held back on following Vinokourov on the attack. "He knows he’s supposed to keep tight on Vinokourov," a somewhat dismayed Pevenage said.

As for the Kazakh, who rides for Ullrich’s former Team Telekom, the chance of victory next Sunday in Paris seems one step closer. "The possibility of riding in the yellow jersey, sent me soaring. And when I noticed they (Armstrong and Ullrich) had fallen behind, I summoned all my remaining energy."

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