Alcala wins rain-soaked time trial

WILMINGTON, DEL. — WILMINGTON, Del. -- Raul Alcala of Mexico, a two-time Tour Du Pont champion, is back in the coveted yellow leader's jersey.

Alcala won yesterday's 2.98-mile prologue on the rain-soaked streets of Wilmington in 6 minutes, 25.7 seconds.


"It was very difficult," said Alcala, who also won the prologue in 1990 and wore the yellow jersey the last eight days of the 1993 race. "I took it very easy on the turns. I didn't take any risks."

Bobby Julich of Santa Rosa, Calif., finished 1.68 seconds behind Alcala. Andrea Peron of Italy came in 3.38 seconds behind the winner.


Greg LeMond, a three-time Tour de France winner and the 1992 Tour Du Pont champion, finished fifth, 6.7 seconds behind Alcala.

"I had a few little problems, but other than that everything went OK," LeMond said. "I went around every corner fairly well. [The weather] was a challenge, but it's not anything new."

A short time trial, the prologue is a "wake-up" call for the 112 cyclists competing in the 12-day, 1,060-mile race. Usually, the strongest overall riders win the prologue. Three of the past four prologue winners have gone on to become the race champion, including LeMond in 1992.

The Wilmington prologue is not without challenges. Cyclists leave the starting ramps in one-minute intervals and face a short, steep grade over the cobblestones of Monkey Hill, then a tricky descent and another climb before the finish line.

But yesterday cyclists also had to contend with rain, wind and cool temperatures. The wet weather made the cobblestones slick and turns treacherous. At least five cyclists wiped out just before the cobblestone climb.

"I didn't take any chances," said Julich, who is 22. "My main concerns were the cobblestones. Once I got through that, I didn't have any real concerns."

Julich didn't race in last year's Tour Du Pont because he was without a team sponsor. He placed fifth overall in 1991 and 10th overall in 1992.

"This really has been one of my favorite races," he said. "I watched it on my couch in California last year and it was pretty depressing. I thought I would never get back in it."


Julich is on the Chevrolet-L.A. Sheriff team. Sixteen teams from around the world are competing in the race, the longest and richest bicycle race in America.

The prologue time is figured into a racer's overall time.

Alcala was the last man off the ramp. The 30-year-old said he had thought his cautiousness taking turns would cost him. He pushed the last open stretch before the finish line.

"That's the place to win," he said.

The last man off the starting ramp last year, Jelle Nijdam of Holland, won the prologue in a record 5 minutes, 55 seconds, breaking LeMond's 1992 record by 23 seconds. Nijdam held on as the race leader for four days.

Finishing behind him in the prologue were Alcala and Lance Armstrong of Texas. Alcala went on to win the 1993 race and Armstrong, then a 21-year-old rookie, finished second. Both are favorites to win the 1994 road race. Armstrong placed 25th in the prologue, 18.28 seconds behind the winner.


(2.98-mi. prologue time trial)

1. Raul Alcala, Mexico, Motorola, 6 minutes, 25.718 seconds; 2. Bobby Julich, Glenwood Springs, Colo., Chevrolet-L.A. Sheriff's, 6:27.406; 3. Andrea Peron, Italy, Polti, 6:29.106; 4. Frankie Andreu, Dearborn, Mich., Motorola, 6:31.854; 5. Greg LeMond, Medina, Minn., Gan, 6:32.514; 6. Tyler Hamilton, Marblehead, Mass., U.S. National Team, 6:32.612; 7. Malcolm Elliott, Britain, Chevrolet-L.A. Sheriff's, 6:32.961; 8. Frederic Moncassin, France, WordPerfect, 6:33.656; 9. Steve Hegg, Dana Point, Colo., Chevrolet-L.A. Sheriff's, 6:33.745; 10. Steve Bauer, Canada, Motorola, 6:34.540.