Greg LeMond, who rode a masterful race through the first half of the Tour de France, now faces his most difficult challenge since 1989, when he overcame France's Laurent Fignon on the final day.
LeMond, from Wayzata, Minn., was left struggling a kilometer from the top of the Col du Tourmalet, the highest point of the Tour as he "cracked and paid the price."
The damage was inflicted by Italian rival Claudio Chiappucci, who set a blistering pace up the 6,935-foot peak known as the Toit du Tour, or Roof of the Tour.
"I think when someone has a real problem like he did today, it shows he can't win," Chiappucci told reporters after winning the Tour's most difficult stage.
Chiappucci's sprint with 500 meters left barely overcame Spain's Miguel Indurain, who nonetheless took over the yellow jersey signifying the overall leader. Chiappucci and Indurain finished 7 minutes, 18 seconds ahead of LeMond, who was spent after the attacks and counterattacks on a day when temperatures reached 90 degrees.
"He [Indurain] was stronger than me," LeMond said. "I was really tired at the end of the day. I didn't have any legs."
Indurain, 27, was satisfied with his effort, but is not claiming victory yet as the 181 competitors left in the Tour still have two mountain stages in the Alps and an individual time trial near Lyon before finishing on July 28 in Paris.
LeMond, who started the day in second place but far in front ohis most serious competitors, fell to fifth, 5:08 behind. Fignon was sixth at 5:52, and Andy Hampsten of Boulder, Colo., was seventh at 7:25.
Indurain's lead would be considered insurmountable, if not for LeMond's uncanny ability to win this race under difficult circumstances.
"It's not over yet," LeMond said.
But with only two more mountain stages, both in the Alps, and one more time trial, LeMond has few opportunities to cut the deficit.
13th stage (a 144-mile leg)
1. Claudio Chiappucci, Italy, Carrera, 7 hours, 11 minutes, 16 seconds; 2. Miguel Indurain, Spain, Banesto, 1 second behind; 3. Gianni Bugno, Italy, Carrera, 1:28; 4. Laurent Fignon, France, Castorama, 2:50; 5. Charly Mottet, France, RMO, 3:53; 6. Andy Hampsten, Boulder, Colo., Motorola, 6:01; 7. Eduardo Chozas, Spain, ONCE, 6:24; 8. Eric Boyer, France, Z, 7:16; 9. Greg LeMond, Wayzata, Minn., Z, 7:18; 10. Jean-Francois Bernard, France, Banesto, 7:38; 11. Abelardo Rondon, Colombia, Banesto, 12. Gerard Rue, France, Helvetia, 7:56; 13. Patrice Esnault, France, Amaya, 9:40; 14. Pell Ruiz-Cabestany, Clas-Cajastur,
10:05; 15. Denis Roux, France, Toshiba, 12:36.
Other Motorola and American riders 60. Phil Anderson, Australia, 26:44; 61. Dag-Otto Lauritzen, Norway, 26:44; 116. Steve Bauer, Canada, 37:52; 143. Urs Zimmermann, Switzerland, 38:40; 149. Andy Bishop, Tucson, Ariz., 38:44; 151. Ron Kiefel, Boulder, Colo., 39:01; 154. Sean Yates, Britain, 39:21.
Overall standings (after 13 stages)
1. Indurain, 58 hours, 51 minutes, 47 seconds; 2. Mottet, 3 minutes behind; 3. Bugno, 3:10; 4. Chiappucci, 4:06; 5. LeMond, 5:08 behind; 6. Fignon, 5:52; 7. Hampsten, 7:25; 8. Luc Leblanc, France, Castorama, 7:51; 9. Bernard, 8:39; 10. Chozas, 13:11; 11. Rue, 14:57; 12. Maurizio Fondriest, Italy, Panasonic, 15:13; 13. Pedro Delgado, Spain, Banesto, 16:30; 14. Rondon, 18:10; 15.
Other Motorola and American riders
57. Anderson, 46:21; 63. Lauritzen, 50:20; 95. Yates, 1:03:57; 102. Zimmermann, 1:04:55; 125. Bishop, 1:10:43; 127. Bauer, 1:11:08; Kiefel, 1:22:49; Mike Carter eliminated by time yesterday.