Armstrong makes move with victory in Stage 13

Five-time Tour winner just :22 off lead

July 18, 2004|By Diane Pucin | Diane Pucin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

PLATEAU DE BEILLE, France - Lance Armstrong could get sick. With a cold or the flu, climbing the Alps would be agony.

Or he could hit a pothole, get caught in a crash or even get punched by a spectator, which happened to Eddie Merckx, a five-time Tour de France winner, in 1975 while climbing the Puy de Dome.

Armstrong, now just 22 seconds off the lead after yesterday's Stage 13 win, was spit on Friday and booed yesterday by some orange-clad Basque fans who seemed angry that their homebred hero, Iban Mayo, tried to quit the race halfway up the mountain yesterday.

Or maybe it's possible that the yellow jersey has magical French powers that prove Armstrong's undoing

At least seven times yesterday, Thomas Voeckler, the unlikely Frenchman who has worn yellow as the Tour's leader for seven days, lost contact with the leaders. But even as Voeckler's face flushed bright red and his eyes looked unfocused, the 25-year-old Frenchman pushed ahead, using the cheers of the crowd estimated at 150,000 as an extra gear.

Voeckler will wear the maillot jaune for yet another day, but his lead over Armstrong that was more than 9 minutes two days ago is now a slender 22 seconds.

But it is a lead, and Voeckler will not let go without a struggle.

Still, it looks as if the 2004 Tour belongs to Armstrong, barring any calamities.

The 32-year-old cancer survivor from Texas who is trying to become the first man to win six consecutive titles, won his first individual stage with a smooth effort helped by his U.S. Postal Service teammates.

He outsprinted Italy's Ivan Basso, who for the second day rode pedal-to-pedal with the five-time champion, to cross the finish line first at this Pyrenees ski resort, a stage Armstrong also won two years ago.

While trailing Voeckler, Armstrong is 1:17 ahead of Basso.

He put further time between himself and Jan Ullrich, the 1997 winner and five-time runner-up. Tyler Hamilton, a former Armstrong teammate and last year's fourth-place rider, abandoned the race about 35 miles into the 127-mile stage. Hamilton blamed a sore back he suffered in a crash July 9 last week and a heart aching over the death of his beloved dog, Tugboat, this past week.

Mayo, who had been strongly considered a podium possibility this year and a big favorite to win one of the two Pyrenees stages that are home territory for him and his Euskaltel team, instead barely made it to the finish. He finished the stage in 115th place, crossing the line nearly 38 minutes behind Armstrong. At one point, Mayo climbed off his bike to quit. Two teammates pushed him back on.

Only Basso, who has forged a friendship with Armstrong, partly as a result of his mother's pancreatic cancer, and Andreas Kloden, who is on Ullrich's T-Mobile team, seem legitimate threats to the American.

Armstrong has never been one to proclaim victory. He said again yesterday, as he has said every year: "It's not over until you reach the Champs-Elysees." That would be a week from today after more punishing stages in the Alps.

But Ullrich, on his team Web site, certainly seemed ready to crown Armstrong.

"I can assure you, I will fight every day until I drop," wrote Ullrich, who finished last year's race only 61 seconds behind Armstrong, but who is 6:39 behind now. "After seven climbs and more than 200 kilometers and under conditions that should really be ideal for me, I must admit this: Lance appears to be unbeatable this year."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Results

13th stage

127.70-mile leg from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille 1. L. Armstrong, U.S., U.S. Postal, 6 hours, 4 minutes, 38 seconds.

2. I. Basso, Italy, Team CSC, same time.

3. G. Totschnig, Austria, Gerolsteiner, 1 minute, 5 seconds behind.

4. A. Kloden, Germany, T-Mobile, 1:27 behind.

5. F. Mancebo, Spain, Illes Balears, same time.

6. J. Ullrich, Germany, T-Mobile, 2:42.

7. J. Azevedo, Portugal, U.S. Postal, 2:50.

8. C. Moreau, France, Credit Agricole, 2:51.

9. P. Caucchioli, Italy, Alessio, same time.

10. G. Simoni, Italy, Saeco, 3:43.

11. O. Pereiro Sio, Spain, Phonak, 4:29.

12. S. Goubert, France, AG2R Prevoyance, same time.

13. T. Voeckler, France, Brioches la Boulangere, 4:42.

14. A. Merckx, Belgium, Lotto, 5:56.

15. V. Karpets, Russia, Illes Balears, 6:06.

Others 16. C. Sastre, Spain, Team CSC, 6:34.

18. O. Sevilla, Spain, Phonak, 6:39.

19. L. Leipheimer, U.S., Rabobank, same time.

Overall standings

1. Voeckler, 58 hours, 27 seconds.

2. Armstrong, 22 seconds behind.

3. Basso, 1:39 behind.

4. Kloden, 3:18.

5. Mancebo, 3:28.

6. Totschnig, 6:08.

7. Azevedo, 6:43.

8. Ullrich, 7:01.

9. Caucchioli, 7:59.

10. Sandy Casar, France, fdjeux.com, 8:29.

11. Simoni, 9:50.

12. Sastre, 10:03.

13. Pereiro Sio, 10:13.

14. Leipheimer, 10:47.

15. Sevilla, 10:54.

Others 20. J. Rubiera, Spain, U.S. Postal, 13:57.

34. R. Heras, Spain, Liberty Seguros, 27:35.

35. G. Hincapie, U.S., U.S. Postal, 30:39.

37. F. Landis, U.S., U.S. Postal, 31:25.

52. B. Julich, U.S., Team CSC, 46:49.

58. M. Beltran, Spain, U.S. Postal, 53:44.

71. C. Vandevelde, U.S., Liberty Seguros, 1 hour, 5 minutes, 16 seconds behind.

82. V. Ekimov, Russia, U.S. Postal, 1:14:19.

91. P. Padrnos, Czech Republic, U.S. Postal, 1:18:05.

Tour at a glance

Yesterday: A grueling, 127.7-mile trek through the Pyrenees from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille.

Winner: Lance Armstrong, United States, US Postal-Berry Floor, 6 hours, 4 minutes, 38 seconds.

How others fared: Ivan Basso, Italy, Team CSC, same time as Armstrong; Jan Ullrich, Germany, T-Mobile, 2 minutes, 42 seconds behind.

Yellow jersey: French cyclist Thomas Voeckler of Brioches La Boulangere still leads.

Today: Stage 14, Carcassonne to Nimes, 119.62 miles.

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