Tour director Christian Prudhomme (R) was joined by Prince Albert II of Monaco in the red Skoda today.
view thumbnail gallery
Tour director laments demise of Armstrong's challenge
Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme says he's excited by the prospects of a thrilling general classification battle after the first real Alpine test of this year's event.
"It is very exciting, we don't know what's going to happen," said Prudhomme (pictured with Prince Albert of Monaco, right). "Cadel Evans has the yellow jersey, with only 20 seconds on Andy Schleck. Contador is behind, together with others, like Basso and Kreuziger.
"Everything is possible. The only certainty that we have is that Lance Armstrong won't win the Tour 2010," he added.
After an opening week that saw several contenders slip by the wayside courtesy of crashes, the 189km to Morzine-Avoriaz also witnessed the fall of another Tour favourite in Armstrong, who lost almost 12 minutes by stage's end high on the ski slopes above Morzine.
"I didn't expect such a crisis. I understand he had a saddle sore which could explain things," continued Prudhomme. "It's true that we knew a dominating Armstrong - during seven years he never crashed.
"I still remember that stage to Gap in 2003 where he was even able to cross a field without crashing. So falling two and a half times during this stage is a lot.
"Since he came back, he's crashed more. We also know that he has a hard time dealing with the heat, as the one Tour that was the least easy for him to win was the one in 2003 during the heatwave.
"I really couldn't imagine that he'd lose 11:45 on the very first mountain stage, and I'm sure he didn't imagine it, either."
While the American has said he'll now turn his attention to helping Team RadioShack deliver countryman Levi Leipheimer in a prime position to contest the general classification fight, Prudhomme isn't sure whether fans can expect any more fireworks from the former Tour champion.
"I don't know at all what he is still capable of doing, if this could be the one Tour too many," he said. "I don't know whether he will want to finish in Paris, or if this will spur his pride and he'll want to win a stage, seeing that he is now far down in the classification."