Sean Yates of Britain won the sixth stage of the Tour de France Friday, using a heavy tail wind to defeat Roberto Visentini of Italy by 14 seconds in the 31-mile individual time trial.
Jelle Nijdam of Holland gained the overall lead and the yellow jersey that goes with it, posting an overall time of 15 hours, 48 minutes and 49 seconds. He leads Canadian Steve Bauer by just one second.Yates, who rides for the Fagor team, captured the stage from Lievin to Wasquehal in northern France in 1:03.22.
"I am as surprised as anyone, though I know I'm a good rider. It is my first major victory in a time trial," said Yates, often overshadowed by Fagor teammate Stephen Roche, the 1987 Tour de France winner.
Roche, the defending world champion, is not racing in this year's Tour because of knee problems.
"I know well that my performance was helped by the wind," said Yates, who rode in the morning when the tail wind was strong. The wind died in the afternoon, when many of the favorites raced, and some later cyclists were slowed by a light rain.
Yates, 28, who also won a stage of the Tour of Spain this year, is enjoying his best professional season. Friday's victory was his first ever in a stage of the Tour de France, cycling's most prestigious event.
Following Visentini was Toni Rominger of Switzerland, who was 23 seconds behind Yates. Fourth fastest in the stage was Nijdam, 41 seconds off the winning time.
Nijdam, 24, Thursday wnn,a stage of the Tour de France for the first time in his career.
"In the past I would have thought that 52 kilometers was too much for me," he said of Friday's stage. "This has given me a lot of confidence in my overall chances. I am going to defend this yellow jersey until the end."
Behind Bauer in the overall standings was Eric Breukink of Holland, 21 seconds behind Nijdam. Eric Vanderaerden of Belgium was in fourth place overall, 46 seconds off the lead, while Jean-Francois Bernard of France was fifth and Visentini sixth.
Andrew Hampsten of Boulder, Colo., believed to be North America's top hope, finished 49th and in the overall standings is 58th.
Gerrie Knetemann of Holland dropped out of the race Friday because of a fractured collarbone suffered in a fall the previous day, leaving only 193 riders competing.
The seventh stage today is the longest yet in the Tour, a 140-mile run from Wasquehal to Reims.