Armstrong survives attacks in Pyrenees

T-Mobile went out to destroy the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling team in Saturday's stage of the Tour de France and came within one man of success.

They never did break Lance Armstrong. Dropped briefly by the group of overall leaders on the lower part of the 9.4-mile climb up Port de Pailhères, Armstrong recovered and survived to cross the top in a chase group that included Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso.

On the later climb to the finish at Ax-3 Domaines, Armstrong beat rivals Basso and Ullrich to the line; Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner) won the stage, after joining a breakaway 195 km into the race, but riding solo up the final two mountains.

Armstrong put distance on all his rivals, who should be focused on second or third place.

With an even more difficult stage on Sunday, however, with one Hors Categorie and four first category climbs, Armstrong's main problem is what to do with his team.

Saturday marked the second time that Armstrong lost his Discovery team and had to ride alone. The blogger at Tour de France 2005 asks the question that must be plaguing many minds: “How did Armstrong find himself alone — again — so early in the action?”

Even though Armstrong appeared to handle it easily, can he do it two days in a row? Discovery is riding without two men they had planned on — Viatcheslav Ekimov was injured in a serious training accident in May and Carlos Beltran dropped out after an accident a few days ago. Armstrong fans have to hope that the Discovery team can pull itself together again.

Of course, they don't have the same problems as face the T-Mobile team. Although they showed a good effort to break Discovery on the lower part of the Port de Pailhères, on the final climb we saw an example of the in-fighting that plagues the team. Alexandre Vinokourov, who had been dropped, came through the lead chase group that included Armstrong. T-Mobile riders Andreas Kloden and Ullrich went to the front of the group and actually chased down Vinokourov.

Play by play and full results are available at OLN, CyclingNews, VeloNews, and others. Check “Where to see the Tour de France 2005” for more details.

Americans Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) and Floyd Landis (Phonak) finished in the top 10 today.

The top 10 after Saturday's stage:
Armstrong (1, Discovery);
Michael Rasmussen (2, Rabobank) 1:41 behind; 
Ivan Basso (3, CSC) 2:46;
Jan Ullrich (4, T-Mobile) 4:34;
Levi Leipheimer (5, Gerolsteiner) 4:45;
Floyd Landis (6, Phonak) 5:03;
Francisco Mancebo (7, Illes Balears) 5:03;
Andreas Kloden (8, T-Mobile) 5:38;
Alexandre Vinokourov (9, T-Mobile) 7:09; and
Christophe Moreau (10, Credit Agricole) 8:37 behind.

Three Americans are still in the top 10. The overall rank of all Americans:
Lance Armstrong (1, Discovery);
Levi Leipheimer (5, Gerolsteiner) 4:45;
Floyd Landis (6, Phonak) 5:03;
Bobby Julich (16, CSC) 11:54 behind;
George Hincapie (25, Discovery) 24:59 behind;
Chris Horner (36, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 43:44 behind;
Fred Rodriguez, (123, Davitamon-Lotto) 2 hours 16 minutes; and
Guido Trenti (140, Quick.Step) 2 hours 28 minutes.


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