Armstrong back on top of Tour de France

20th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

VILLARD-DE-LANS, France, July 20 (AFP) - Lance Armstrong put his sprint qualities on show to win the 15th stage of the Tour de France held over 180.5 km between Valreas and here Tuesday to pull on the race leader's yellow jersey.

VILLARD-DE-LANS, France, July 20 (AFP) - Lance Armstrong put his sprint qualities on show to win the 15th stage of the Tour de France held over 180.5 km between Valreas and here Tuesday to pull on the race leader's yellow jersey.  

US Postal's Armstrong, who thus ended Thomas Voeckler's 10-day spell in yellow, claimed his second stage of the race and 18th overall after beating Italian Ivan Basso in an exciting sprint to the line.  

Germany's 1997 winner Jan Ullrich, of T-Mobile, came third having gone on an ambitious attack earlier before being caught by Armstrong's US Postal team with around 20km to the finish.  

Voeckler, the 24-year-old French sensation who rides for La Boulangere, came in almost nine and a half minutes adrift after struggling over the stage's seven climbs.  

However he picked up the white jersey for the best rider under 25 years old, which had been on hold, and admitted that Armstrong deserved every inch of the yellow jersey.   "I can't complain, I had 10 days in the yellow jersey and I gave everything in this stage but I just had nothing left in the tank," said Voeckler who was dropped several times by the peloton throughout.  

"But Armstrong showed he was the best today. He was attacked, and came back well at the end to win."  

Armstrong, who is bidding for a record sixth victory, now leads Basso in the general classification by 1:25 ahead of Wednesday's challenging time trial over 15.5km up the legendary Alpe d'Huez.  

In third place is T-Mobile rider Andreas Kloden, at 3:22, with Spaniard Francisco Mancebo of the Baleares team at 5:39.  

Ullrich meanwhile is 6:54 behind Armstrong, who admitted after his win that still, the race is not over.  

"We can't let up until Paris, the race is not over yet," the 32-year-old American said confidently before admitting he knew every inch of the stage.  

"We knew the outlay of the course well. So when we saw the attacks going it was no problem for us."  

The stage was kicked into life by numerous early attacks, including one by French climber Richard Virenque, who in the end managed to claim 49 points to consolidate his King of the Mountains jersey.  

However the fast pace in the first half hour of racing spelled the end of the road for former contender Iban Mayo of Spain.  

The 26-year-old Euskaltel rider, who before the race was touted as a bona fide challenger to Armstrong, had almost quit in the Pyrenees during the 13th stage to Plateau de Beille.  

After the first two medium-sized climbs of the seven in total Virenque made his move to chase down precious points just before the 90 km mark.  

The third climb was the first real mountain pass of the day, and organisers this year have doubled the points on offer at the summit.  

The Quick Step rider, who took the climber's jersey after winning the 10th stage from Limoges to St Flour, took all the points on offer to get his defence of the polka dot jersey he is trying to win for a record seventh time off to a good start.  

At the second intermediate sprint after 115km Australian Stuart O'Grady, of Cofidis, took the honours well ahead of his challenger for the green jersey, Norwegian champion Thor Hushovd.  

Not long after, Ullrich made his move that would prompt US Postal into eventually chasing down his maximum lead of 55secs.  

Following his attack just after the second sprint the German had tried to increase his advantage along with Phonak's Santos Gonzalez and Frenchman Laurent Brochard however their lead did not last long.  

They were eventually reeled in by Armstrong, who pushed to the front of the race along with Ullrich, his T-Mobile teammate Andreas Kloden, Basso and Levy Leipheimer.  

On the final turn and with only a few hundred yards to finish, Armstrong and Basso detached themselves from the rest, with Armstrong accelerating just before the final bend to win with ease in front of the 26-year-old Italian, who beat the American at La Mongie a few days ago.




Subject: French news



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