Tour de France : Bauer Holds Slim Lead as Simon Wins Ninth Stage

From Times Wire Services

Steve Bauer of Canada retained a slim lead in the overall standings of the 75th Tour de France cycling race Monday, although France's Jerome Simon won the 100-mile ninth stage.

The 191 riders still competing encountered the first mountains of the 2,036-mile race in the Nancy-to-Strasbourg leg that went over 3,380-foot Struthof in eastern France.

Teun Van Vliet of the Netherlands pulled out of the race just before the start with stomach problems. He had held the top position from Monday until Friday but had dropped steadily since.

Simon's victory put him in second place, just 14 seconds behind Bauer, with Eric Bruelink of the Netherlands third.

In Monday's stage, Simon, the youngest of three brothers competing in the race, was timed in 3 hours 47 minutes 31 seconds. He beat Italian Bruno Leali by about seven seconds, with the other members of the small group close behind but almost two minutes ahead of the rest of the pack, which was led by Ireland's Sean Kelly.

Simon said he made up his mind early about breaking away. "It was something I decided before the start," he said.

Luis Herrera and other Colombian cyclists benefited from Monday's course through mountains, moving up as a group in the standings. Herrera, at 27th, is just 3 minutes 28 seconds behind Bauer. He is considered to be in a good position considering his success in mountainous terrain.

Today's 10th stage over 93 miles, from Belfort to Besancon, includes the 3,855-foot Ballon de Servance, with the Alps ahead on Thursday in a ride to the Tunnel de Mont Blanc near Morzine.

Jeannie Longo of France, the defending champion, gained the overall lead in the women's Tour de France as Italy's two-time champion, Maria Canins, won the first stage, a 51-mile sprint around Strasbourg. Canins' time was 2:32:11, just ahead of Longo.

Imelda Chiappa of Italy was third, sprinting ahead of the pack, finishing 48 seconds behind the leaders.

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