Armstrong ups heat in Tour de France
July 7, 2009 —
There’s never a dull day at the Tour de France and that was certainly the case Monday as seven-time champ Lance Armstrong put everyone on notice that he’s here to win.
The 37-year-old snuck into a winning 28-rider breakaway late in Monday’s 196.5km third stage and climbed into third place overall at 40 seconds back going into Tuesday’s decisive team time trial.
More importantly, Armstrong gapped Astana teammate Alberto Contador, who was out of position when the entire Columbia-HTC team punched the accelerator into heavy crosswinds with about 30km to go.
The tactic caught almost all the major GC contenders asleep at the wheel – except Armstrong.
“I’ve won seven Tours and I know when there are crosswinds and there’s a change in direction of the course, you’ve got to be at the front. That’s where I was,” Armstrong said. “The intention was never to drop Contador.”
Brit Mark Cavendish won his second straight stage to tighten his grip on his green points jersey and overnight leader Fabian Cancellara was the only rider from his favored Saxo Bank team to make the break, but managed to hold onto the yellow jersey.
The Armstrong group came across the line 41 seconds of the desperate chasers.
Missing the move along with Contador were nearly every other GC favorite, including defending champion Carlos Sastre, two-time runner-up Cadel Evans and American Christian Vande Velde.
The result also pushes Armstrong ahead of Contador, who slipped from second to fourth, now 59 seconds back. It’s a critical distinction as the pair heat up their battle for control of the powerful Astana team.
All sides have agreed they will ride for the strongest rider in the race. Armstrong proved Monday that at least he’s the smartest.
Former Vail Daily editor Andrew Hood now lives in Spain and covers cycling. His reports on the 96th Tour de France will appear daily on RealVail.com. Also follow him on twitter at twitter.com/eurohoody.
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