Armstrong loses yellow as Rasmussen wins

11th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

MULHOUSE, France, July 10 (AFP) - Six-time winner Lance Armstrong lost the Tour de France yellow jersey after another dramatic day of climbing which handed Germany's Jens Voigt the race lead for only the second time in his career.

MULHOUSE, France, July 10 (AFP) - Six-time winner Lance Armstrong lost the Tour de France yellow jersey after another dramatic day of climbing which handed Germany's Jens Voigt the race lead for only the second time in his career.

Former mountain biker Michael Rasmussen of Denmark was the star of the day after claiming the stage in style following a brave 169km breakaway on the 171km ninth stage between Gerardmer and Mulhouse in the Vosges region.

Voigt, who rides for the CSC team of race contender Ivan Basso, took the yellow jersey from Armstrong after finishing three minutes behind Rasmussen in the company of former teammate Christophe Moreau.

Both riders had escaped from a five-strong group at the foot of the day's last climb, the Ballon d'Alsace, which is the first category one climb of the race and featured for the first time since 1905.

Voigt and Moreau worked together for the rest of the stage, and despite a late puncture the German finished with a sufficient advantage on Armstrong to take the yellow jersey for the second time since he last did in 2001.

He now has a 1:50 lead on Frenchman Moreau, while Armstrong is in third place overall at 2:18 ahead of Monday's rest day - which will be followed by the first of three days in the Alps.

Armstrong, who still leads main rival Jan Ullrich by 1:06 in the general classification, admitted he had been sad to lose the jersey, but said: "It wasn't a priority for us to defend it today."

Voigt had started the day in second place at just a minute behind Armstrong, who contrary to Saturday was assured of his teammates' presence throughout the day.

"We spoke to each other last night, asked a few questions and sorted a few things out," Armstrong added referring to his Discovery Channel team. "We did better today."

Despite his optimism, the race is now wide open as it is the team of Ivan Basso, one of Armstrong's main challengers along with Ullrich and Alexandre Vinokourov, who now hold the yellow jersey.

Voigt, who likes to have a joke or two, said that he should have no problem defending it in the immediate future.

"It shouldn't be a problem defending the jersey tomorrow," he said referring to Monday's rest day when the most cycling the 21 teams will do is a 100km training ride.

In a more serious tone, Voigt admitted that he has only one job on the race, and that he was lucky to have been given the green light to go on the attack in the first place.

"At the Tour de France we have one strategy, and one leader - that's Ivan Basso. We have to protect him so it's not possible to always go on attacks," said Voigt.

"Today we had a meeting in the team bus and (team manager) Bjarne (Riis) said, 'Jens can go'. I was really pleased because every day I was asking him if I could go on an attack and he would say the same thing, 'No'.

"Finally today he said I could go, and that's what I did."

The last time Voigt wore the yellow jersey was in 2001, when he took it from his then Credit Agricole teammate Stuart O'Grady. He wore it for a day before losing it to Frenchman Francois Simon, of the Bonjour team.

Now, and especially after Saturday's drama when Armstrong found himself alone on the day's final climb as Vinokourov attacked, the battle for the race lead looks set to get even livelier.

Basso, who has been quiet so far, could finally show his hand - and Voigt admitted he wouldn't mind handing the yellow jersey over to his team leader.

"Well, it would be perfect if that happens again. I wouldn't be angry at all," said Voigt.

"I'm just not made for the mountains, but I did my job. It was one of my last chances to take the yellow jersey in the race, but if one of my teammates takes it from me then that's fine with me."

Rasmussen became the 10th Dane to win a stage on the Tour de France, and handed his Rabobank team their second stage win in as many days after Pieter Weening's victory on Saturday.

The 31-year-old from Copenhagen had attacked after just four kilometres of the stage and completed most of it on his own, at one point possessing a nine-minute lead on Armstrong and his group.

Having made the switch from mountain biking to the road a few years ago, Rasmussen's big aim was to win a stage on the Tour - which he achieved in style.

"The best way to defend sometimes is to attack. At the start I just wanted to put some distance between myself and the other contenders for the (polka dot) jersey.

"But as the day progressed I just felt better and better," added Rasmussen, who affirmed he could be one of the men to watch in the coming days.

"I think it's smart for me to keep my focus on the jersey and maybe pick up another stage along the road.

"I've been a professional road cyclist for nearly three years, and ever since then I've dreamed of winning a stage on the Tour, and to pull on the polka dot jersey."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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