Armstrong’s Tour ruined as Evans seizes lead

MORZINE-AVORIAZ, France, (Reuters) – Lance  Armstrong’s hopes of winning an unprecedented eighth Tour de  France were ruined yesterday when the first Alpine stage proved  too much for him to handle.

Riding his last Tour, the 38-year-old American, who had ‘the  hardest day’ in his cycling life in a Tour stage to Morzine in  2000, suffered even more 10 years later, finishing 11 minutes 45  seconds behind stage winner Andy Schleck of Luxembourg.

“The Tour is over but I’m gonna hang in there,” Armstrong,  his face a mask of pain, told reporters after crossing the line.

Australian Cadel Evans seized the overall lead after the  stage, a 189-km trek from Les Rousses, was dominated by Schleck,  who attacked one kilometre from the finish.

Last year’s runner-up Schleck, who had never won on the  Tour, is 20 seconds behind in second. Alberto Contador is in  third place, 1:01 off the pace, after the defending champion  could not respond to the attack.

Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez of Spain was second with  Dutchman Robert Gesink in third place, while Spaniard Contador  ended up fifth on the day.

Briton Bradley Wiggins, who finished fourth overall last  year, cracked in the final ascent to Avoriaz, a 13.6-km effort  at an average gradient of 6.1 percent, and lost 1:45.


Following a promising performance in the prologue, Armstrong  lost ground on the cobblestones earlier this week and he looked  his age yesterday.

The seven-times champion came off his bike after seven  kilometres when he got involved in a massive pile-up and then  crashed 51 kilometres from the finish.

He changed bike and was helped back into the bunch by four  team mates, with a graze on his left elbow — the same one he  hurt in a crash at the Tour of California last May.

“Bad day, very bad day. It went from bad to worse,” he said.

The Texan was dropped midway through the Col de la Ramaz and  Contador’s Astana team immediately upped the pace at the front  of the pack.

The American reached the top of the climb with a one-minute  deficit and despite the help of his RadioShack team mates, never  made it back to the main bunch.

He even waved to them to slow down a bit so that he could  stay with them.

To make matters worse, he was forced off his bike once more  after a rider crashed in front of him with some 20 km left.

The look on his face at that moment said it all.

The question now is whether Armstrong, who used to hammer  the competition in the first mountain stage in his 1999-2005  reign on the Tour, will have the mental strength to continue.

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