Lance Armstrong refused to criticise Alberto Contador for not waiting for Andy Schleck after his mechanical problem.
Armstrong recalled when he waited for Jan Ullrich in 2001 and when Ullrich waited for him in 2003. However he pointed out that the race was 'on' and so the unwritten rules of fair play and sportsmanship do not count in the heat of the moment, when other riders are attacking and other placings and jerseys are at stake.
"I didn't see exactly what happened because I was a bit behind," Armstrong said immediately after finishing the stage. "But if Alberto attacked when he saw that Andy was behind, then it's probably not correct but I have to see the images first. But it's a shame if he didn't get back up and so lost the jersey.
"It's true [that Ullrich waited in 2003] and in 2001 I waited for Ulrich, when he went down. It's better to wait but this is different. This was the last climb of the race and the race was really on. I don't want to make a harsh judgment without having seen the images."
RadioShack leads team competition
Armstrong looked much stronger on the stage and was only distanced when the race exploded in the final kilometres of the hors catégorie Port de Bales climb. He went on to finish 23rd in Bagneres de Luchon, 4:08 behind Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) but was only 1:18 behind Contador.
With Levi Leipheimer 17th and Andreas Klöden 22nd just ahead of him, RadioShack retook the lead in the team classification from Caisse d'Epargne. RadioShack now leads the Spanish team by 4:27 after Ruben Plaza, Christophe Moreau and Luis Leon Sanchez all finished behind Armstrong. Leipheimer held onto to seventh overall and is now 5:35 behind Contador.
It seems that Armstrong will climb on the final Tour de France podium in Paris after all. Not for an eighth Tour de France victory but as he had hoped but part of the best team in the race. "It was a hard day but okay for the team because we got the team GC back," he said. "But we're running out of days because the Tour is only three weeks long, not four weeks. Anyway I was better than yesterday."
What do you think about the Andy Schleck mechanical? Should his GC rivals have waited or were they in the right to attack? Weigh in on the Cyclingnews Forum.
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.