Attack on Petit-St-Bernard raises hopes
Lance Armstrong ruled out an overall win in the Tour de France despite a strong performance in the Tour's 16th stage on Tuesday. Armstrong, second on general classification, will continue to help race leader and teammate, Alberto Contador.
"It will be hard to win," he said in Bourg-St-Maurice yesterday. "Not only is there a guy who has asserted himself in the race and shown he is the best, but he is on my team.
"I remember the years when I was the leader of my team and if someone even remotely considered their own individual interests, we would have sent him home the next day. I don't want to be that guy."
Contador took over the race lead on Sunday's stage to Verbier. He defended the yellow jersey strongly yesterday as he followed attacks from rival Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank).
Schleck's attacks on the climb of Petit-St-Bernard distanced Armstrong by around 35 seconds. He was able to re-join the Schleck/Contador group with a two kilometre solo effort. Armstrong's performance on the climb was reminiscent of the efforts that helped him win seven editions of the Tour de France from 1999 to 2005.
"The quick accelerations, see if anyone is there, and then just ride a little tempo and accelerate again. That is stuff I would have done before."
Armstrong is 1:37 behind Contador in the overall classification after 16 days of racing. The Texan indicated that it would be possible to take over the race lead if Contador has a bad day, but said there were no plans for late-race coup before the Tour's conclusion on Sunday in Paris.
"I don't think Alberto will make a mistake, but you're a minute and a half out, you have a time trial coming up, you do a good one and get a little closer, then the Mont Ventoux climb... You could see where it would be possible, but that is not what I am planning or scheming."
There are two more high-mountain stages remaining in this year's tour, Wednesday's stage to Le Grand-Bornand and Saturday's stage to Mont Ventoux. Thursday's stage is a 40.5-kilometre timetrial, a discipline that Armstrong dominated throughout the period of his Tour wins.
Armstrong retired immediately after the 2005 Tour. He announced his return to cycling in September 2008 and was reunited with his former director, Johan Bruyneel, at Astana at the start of the season.
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