First long Tour time trial in four years reaps rewards
Lance Armstrong is back in the Tour de France's top three after the stage 18 time trial in Annecy on Thursday despite finishing almost 90 seconds behind winner and Astana teammate Alberto Contador.
"I have mixed emotions. A 16th place in a time trial is not a good result but the ambition was to be on the podium and I have to be happy with that," said Armstrong.
Armstrong was fourth fasted at the first time check of 18km, but faded over the remainder of the 40.5km course. The American veteran attributed this to starting too hard and lacking power due to the previous day's mountain stage to Le Grand-Bornand.
Spaniard Contador consolidated his overall classification lead with a time of 48:30. Starting the day in third, Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) finished 2:34 behind Contador and 1:05 slower than Armstrong, meaning the seven-time Tour champion moved into third overall, 1:14 behind Andy Schleck, who remained in second on general classification.
The Tour de France ends Sunday in Paris but not before one more critical mountain stage on Saturday to Mont Ventoux. Armstrong is third overall but Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) follows closely, trailing by just 11 seconds.
Armstrong believes advancing to second overall is unlikely and is worried about the Brit behind him. "It would be hard [to move to second] with Andy climbing so well but I will try to protect [third place]. I will just watch for the moves there and don't let them get away."
Armstrong placed 10th in the Tour's opening 15.5km time trial in Monaco on July 4 and his last long time trial in the Tour was in 2005, when he won the 55km Saint-Étienne TT before going on to win his seventh Tour title.
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