Lance Armstong’s (Radioshack) Tour de France challenge is over after the American suffered a torrid day in the Alps on stage 8 to Morzine. The American lost over 11 minutes to his main rivals and slipped down to 39th place overall, 13.26 down on the yellow jersey of Cadel Evans (BMC).
“My Tour is finished but I’m going to hang in there and enjoy my last Tour de France. The Tour is over for me but I’ll stay in the race and try and win stages, help the team and appreciate my time here. No tears from me.”
“It’s a bad day,” he said at the finish. “A really bad day, I felt strong but it was tough to recover and it went from bad to worse. It’s not going to be my year.”
The seven-time Tour winner was involved in three crashes – coming off once - and was dropped on the first category climb Col de la Ramaz after using his energies to regain the main group.
The first incident came within the opening 15 kilometres when a crash near the front of the field saw Armstrong run wide onto the grass. Although he didn’t fall, he did lose ground and he was brought back to the bunch with the help of his teammates.
Worse was to come, however, when Armstrong crashed with 51 kilometres to go. "I clipped a pedal [in the roundabout -ed.] and next thing I knew I was rolling on the ground at 65 kilometres per hour," Armstrong explained after the stage. "I didn't make it back on until la Ramaz and I was pegged.
"When you’re rolling on the ground at 60K an hour you start to know that you’re going to be feel the same and it came at a really bad time. I just couldn’t recover.”
His jersey torn, Armstrong was slow to remount but made contact before the critical climb of Col de la Ramaz. However Sky and Saxo Bank set a strong pace, and it proved too much as the American slipped back from the leaders. At first he was assisted by Chris Horner but later Janez Brajkovic took over, as Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden stayed with the leaders.
With the gap hovering around one minute between a group including Alberto Contador (Astana) and Cadel Evans (BMC), there was still a chance of regaining contact before the final climb, but all hope evaporated on the summit of the small climb to Les Gets.
Approaching the summit, Armstrong was caught up in another incident when Egoi Martinez (Euskatel) and Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank) fell in front of him. The American quickly stood up, his hands on his hips, before untangling his bike.
But the writing was on the wall as group after group passed the American on the final climb, as riders inched past, almost unsure of where to look.
"I didn’t expect him to have such a bad day," said race director Christian Prudhomme. "We all remember the stage to Gap in 2003 when he even went across a field and didn’t fall. To fall twice in a stage today is a lot.
"We also know he struggles in heat, and that a lot of the riders are very tired tonight, after some very humid stages…. Maybe Armstrong will dig in and try to win a stage, but he’ll be on the margins of the battle for the classement general."