Tour de France : U.S. Rider Narrows Hinault's Lead

From Times Wire Services

Pedro Delgado of Spain held off a challenge by Colombia's Luis Herrera Tuesday to finish first in the 130-mile 17th stage of the Tour de France bicycle race.

Four-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault, apparently stricken by bronchitis on the final climb, came in 18th and lost more than a minute in total elapsed time to American Greg LeMond.

Hinault retained the overall lead for the 10th consecutive day, 2:25 ahead of LeMond.

Delgado, who won the Tour of Spain in May, completed the rigorous course, which included two climbs of more than 1.5 miles at the end, in 6 hours 57 minutes 21 seconds. Delgado moved from 14th to sixth place overall with today's victory.

Herrera, the Tour's best climber, attacked on the final eight miles but finished 25 seconds behind Delgado. Fabio Parra, Colomobia was third. LeMond was fifth 2:52 behind the leader.

The 145 riders left from an original roster of 180 will run what could be the decisive stage of the 24-day race today. The two-leg 18th stage includes two climbs of the 1.7-mile Col D'Aubisque before leaving the Pyrenees mountains for Pau.

Hinault, trying to tie a record of five Tour de France victories, blamed the bronchitis on his success and fame.

"At the end of every stage, I have to stand around at the finish line for protocol and doing interviews," the 30-year-old Hinault said. "But anyone who thinks they can catch me because I lost over a minute today should remember that in Italy (in the Tour of Italy last month) I lost a minute one day and took back four minutes the next."

Italy's Maria Canins won the second stage of the second half of the women's Tour de France and maintained her overall lead.

Canins, who won the first 12-leg portion that ended Saturday, finished in 2 hours 13 minutes 30 seconds. Jeannie Longo of France was second 9:13 behind, following the 32-mile run from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan through the Pyrenees Mountains.

In the overall standings, Canins is the leader at 4:55:22, with Longo 9:18 behind in second-place.

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