Armstrong grabs 17th stage of Tour

22nd July 2004, Comments 0 comments

LE GRAND-BORNAND, France, July 22 (AFP) - American Lance Armstrong claimed his third victory on this year's Tour de France on the 17th stage held over 204.5km between Bourg d'Oisans and here on Thursday.

LE GRAND-BORNAND, France, July 22 (AFP) - American Lance Armstrong claimed his third victory on this year's Tour de France on the 17th stage held over 204.5km between Bourg d'Oisans and here on Thursday.

Armstrong, of the US Postal team, held off German champion Andreas Kloden, of T-Mobile, at the finish line to claim his 20th stage victory overall.

The 32-year-old Armstrong's win and the time bonuses that go with it also allowed him to extend his race lead following the toughest of the four days in the Alps, which included the legendary Glandon and Madeleine climbs in the day's five in total.

Armstrong, who is well on his way to a record sixth yellow jersey, finished in 6hr 11min 52sec, and a metre ahead of Kloden.

"It's a surprise for me," said Armstrong of his sprint win.

"The last few kilometres were very tactical. For me it's a very special Tour de France, but no one was giving anything away for nothing today.

"My form is great, and the team was great again. They controlled everything no problem."

His closest rival, Italian Ivan Basso of the CSC team, finished fourth behind former champion Jan Ullrich of Germany to retain his second place overall and is now at 4min 09sec adrift.

Kloden who surprised everyone with an attack with less than a kilometre to the finish before he was stunned by Armstrong, is still third overall at 5:11 while his T-Mobile team leader Ullrich moved up to fourth overall at 8:08.

Frenchman Richard Virenque meanwhile all but secured a record sixth victory in the climbers classification which means he is now the undisputed King of the Mountains - providing he finishes the race in Paris on Sunday.

"I did the essential today, that's the main thing. I've had to carry a lot of stress recently, and the new points format (double points on summits of climbs) meant that I had to work extra hard for the jersey, so now I just want to savour it.

"I don't know what I'm going to do as regards my career, but I know I've already left my mark on the Tour de France," said Virenque.

The 34-year-old Quick Step rider, who last year equalled the record held jointly by Spaniard Federico Bahamontes and Belgian Lucien Van Impe, was not among a group of riders which went on the attack almost from the first kilometre.

Virenque soon caught up with the group, in which Italian climber Gilberto Simoni of the Saeco team was the only threat to the general classification.

Simoni's group were allowed to reach a maximum lead of nearly eight minutes before the chasing peloton, being led by US Postal, turned up the tempo when prompted by the CSC team.

Basso, who rides for the Danish outfit, was under threat of seeing his second place overall being eaten into if Simoni was allowed to ride on unchallenged.

Virenque meanwhile did not turn up his own tempo until the descent of the Col du Glandon, a category one climb and the first of five in total.

The popular Frenchman, who pulled on the polka dot jersey after his victory on the 10th stage from Limoges to St Flour, went off with compatriot Christophe Moreau and together they fought back to reach Simoni's group.

Virenque's progress allowed him to claim second place behind Simoni on the summit of the Madeleine, but it was not long after the descent that CSC began to ride to the front.

Virenque claimed full points on the summit of the Col de la Tamie ahead of Moreau and Simoni, and despite the peloton beginning to chase them down he also came over the summit of the day's penultimate climb at the Col de la Forclaz first to further boost his lead.

Soon, the peloton had brought their deficit down to a matter of seconds, but Spaniard Carlos Sastre and CSC teammate Basso tried to shake things up with a brief attack shortly after arriving at the foot of the Col de Frey, a category one climb over 12.8 km and the last of the day.

They were soon reeled in, and despite another attack by Sastre the Spaniard was caught by the yellow jersey's group being led by US Postal's Floyd Landis, which also contained Ullrich, his teammate Kloden, and Basso.

On the summit of the Col de la Croix-Frey Armstrong gave Landis a shove, and soon the American was hurtling downhill in a bid to take a winning lead for the finish.

Ullrich was soon in hot pursuit, but by the time he had caught the 28-year-old Landis, Armstrong had caught up too.

Perplexed, Ullrich made some gestures to Armstrong as he was about to pass him on the right. The American gestured back, but soon Kloden was back to help his team leader.

In the final sprint Kloden took a flying 100-metre lead with less than a kilometre to the finish.

However, Armstrong came from nowhere in the last 500 metres to stun the German on the finish line.

It was his second victory from a sprint finish on the race following his victory at Villard-de-Lans two days ago.




Subject: French news

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