LE HAVRE, France — Cycling strategy, particularly during the Tour de France, can be complex.
How else do you explain Greg LeMond's attitude on a day when he slipped from first to fourth place in the Tour, falling 1 minute 7 seconds behind leader Thierry Marie of France?
"Fourth," LeMond said after completing Thursday's 160.9-mile sixth stage from Arras to Le Havre. "That puts me in a very good position."
If LeMond was happy with the results, Marie was ecstatic after scoring one of the Tour's greatest stage victories of the postwar era with a gallant early attack.
Marie, who moved from 12th place to first, took off alone after 15.5 miles and held a large margin for 145.4 miles through the sunny countryside of his native Normandy. It was the second longest breakaway in Tour history, short of Albert Bourlon's 157-mile break in 1947.
Marie, who held a 22-minute lead at one point, finished in 6 hours 38 minutes 27 seconds, almost two minutes ahead of the main group of riders led by Germany's Remig Stumpf, Soviet Djamolidin Abdujaparov and Ireland's Sean Kelly. Kelly, who plans to retire after this season, is second overall, 1:04 behind. Abdujaparov is third in the same time as LeMond.
"I was in agony," Marie said of the last 20 kilometers. "It was horrible--I didn't know where I was."
LeMond said he did not think Marie would escape so early in a long sprint stage.
"About two kilometers down the road, I just realized he was gone for a long time," LeMond said. "He immediately had 10 minutes (on us)."
LeMond said the main pack was riding slowly because on such a long stage many tactics come into play. Instead of concerning themselves with Marie, the favorites eyed each other to see who would make the first move.
Kelly, who was expected to take the yellow jersey signifying the overall leader, said he was disappointed with his placing.
"Of course, in the morning I was thinking about the yellow jersey," he told a French news service. "I just needed a two-second bonus to get it--and we (his PDM teammates) also knew that LeMond didn't want it, so as not to tire out his teammates. Marie's breakaway changed everything completely."
LeMond refused to wear the yellow jersey at the stage's start, the first time in years that had happened. Rolf Sorensen of Denmark had to forfeit first after suffering a broken collarbone in a crash in Wednesday's stage.
"The fact that he lost out in bad luck and a crash, I didn't feel it was right to take the jersey," LeMond said. "It is not the proper way.
"I prefer not to have it (anyway). It's not that important to take that jersey until I have a chance to win this race."