PAU, France — Five-time champion Bernard Hinault of France took the overall Tour de France lead Tuesday with a second-place finish in the mountainous 12th stage of the 23-stage, 2,500-mile bicycle race.
"I've found my throne again," said Hinault, the 31-year-old champion of French cycling.
Hinault crossed the finish line a second behind Spain's Pedro Delgado, who won the 12th stage--the riders' first test through the rugged mountains of southwestern France.
Delgado covered the 135 miles between Bayonne and Pau in the Pyrenees in 6 hours 3 minutes 18 seconds.
In moving into first place in the overall standings, Hinault leads his nearest competitor, teammate Greg LeMond of the United States, by 5 minutes 26 seconds.
Switzerland's Urs Zimmermann was third, 6:23 behind, and Delgado, who was 66th on Monday, jumped to fourth, 6:58 back of the leader.
Two-time Tour winner Laurent Fignon trailed Hinault by almost 12 minutes, while the leader for the last five days, Denmark's Joergen Pedersen, dropped to the middle of the pack at more than 15 minutes back.
As the riders tackled the Burdineurutcheta Mountain, the tallest in the stage, Hinault led a 19-man escape that included Delgado, LeMond and Zimmermann.
A few miles later, Hinault, nicknamed the Badger, attacked again, and he, Delgado, and Hinault's teammate, Jean-Francois Bernard of France, snatched a five-minute lead over the escape group.
Bernard, one of France's most promising cyclists, eventually dropped back as Hinault pushed on at a steadily increasing pace. Late in the race, LeMond and Colombian Luis Herrera tried to catch the leaders but, working together, Hinault and Delgado relayed themselves to victory.
"In several hours, no one will even remember this victory," Hinault said. "For me, it wasn't important to win the stage but to take the biggest possible lead over my competitors Herrera, (Robert) Miller, (Stephen) Roche, Zimmermann, and all the other heavyweights everyone's been talking about."
Seventeen riders were forced to drop out of the race, which moves to the largest mountains of the Tour today as the cyclists tackle the 116-mile, 13th stage from Pau to Superbagneres.