Punctured tire fails to flatten LeMond's optimism

LYONS, FRANCE — LYONS, France -- Maybe Greg LeMond was right when he said all he needed to turn his season around was some hot weather.

Finding temperatures in the 80s and 90s in Lyons for the start of the Tour de France, LeMond finished part of his weekend's work in a familiar garment: the yellow jersey of the leader of the world's greatest bicycle race.


He wore it yesterday and later lost it -- the hard way.

On Saturday, LeMond had finished third in the prologue to the Tour. But in the first of two stages yesterday he helped drive a breakaway by 11 riders, briefly gaining the jersey. Eight of the 11 cyclists gained 1 minute 44 seconds over the rest of the 198-man field.


In the second stage of the day, a team time trial over 36.5 kilometers (22.6 miles), LeMond was slowed by a punctured tire and lost enough seconds that he fell to second place overall. The new overall leader is Rolf Sorensen, a Dane with the Ariostea team, who is no threat in the long run because he is a weak climber.

By being in second, LeMond possibly even gained a tactical advantage by not having to defend the jersey against attacks over the next 10 days on the flat racing surfaces.

A far bigger loser in the team time trial was Stephen Roche, an Irishman with the Tonton Tapis team and the winner of the Tour in 1987. Troubled by stomach cramps, he said, Roche missed the start and finished so far behind that he faced disqualification.

After the flat, LeMond pushed his Z team to make up the time, taking frequent pulls at the front. Ariostea was too fast, however. Sorensen, who had trailed by only 23 seconds, now

leads by 10.

The performance was a fine one by both riders, who must have felt the effect of the morning's breakaway that they helped lead.

"We missed a very good break," said Steve Bauer, a Canadian with the Motorola team. "It's a significant one."