Ronan Pensec of France moved into the lead in the Tour de France today, replacing Canadian Steve Bauer, who held first place throughout the first nine stages.
Pensec, celebrating his 27th birthday, erased a 17-second deficit on the tour’s first high-mountain stage and took a lead of 50 seconds over Italy’s Claudio Chiappucci. Bauer dropped to third, 1:21 behind.
Thierry Claveyrolet of France was first to finish the 10th stage, a 73.5-mile leg that started in Geveva and ended near Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe.
With the exception of Bauer, most of the leading contenders finished in the pack, 2:29 behind Claveyrolet. This group included Pensec and defending champion Greg LeMond of the United States.
Thus, Pensec, a member of LeMond’s “Z” team, retained his 9:52 edge over LeMond, who dropped in the overall standings from sixth to eighth place.
The stage was marked by three difficult climbs, including the final one up to almost 4,600 feet.
On the final climb, Pensec broke away with a small group that included the 1988 winner, Pedro Delgado of Spain. Bauer, meanwhile, dropped behind, finishing nearly four minutes behind Claveyrolet and 1:37 behind Pensec and the rest of the pack.
With the toughest mountain stages still to come, it is far from clear whether the Z team will now ride for Pensec or for LeMond, who is in eighth place but almost 10 minutes behind his teammate.
“I don’t know what our team tactics will be,” Pensec confessed. “Greg is 10 minutes behind, which is not so much really. We will see.”
Wednesday’s 113.5-mile stage is the hardest of the Tour, with a difficult climb up l’Alpe d’Huez and 21 turns to the summit.