Armstrong Takes Stage 15 of Tour and Yellow Jersey
Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal Service) leads the Tour de France.
Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal Service) leads the Tour de France. The five-time defending champion outsprinted Ivan Basso (CSC) and Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) to win the hilly, 180.5-km ride from Valreas to Villard de Lans in 4:40:30. Armstrong took the jersey from Thomas Voeckler (Brioches La Boulangere), who heroically defended it for 10 days.
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The racing began early. A break containing, among others, Axel Merckx (Lotto), Santiago Botero (T-Mobile), and Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo) went off of the front at 23 km, but Rabobank reeled it in. At 55 km, 15 riders?Pavel Padrnos (U.S. Postal Service), Santos Gonzalez (Phonak), Aitor Gonzalez, Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Jens Voigt (CSC), Jose Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Stuart O?Grady and Dmitri Fofonov (Cofidis), Richard Virenque (Quick Step), Christian Vandevelde (Liberty Seguros), Anthony Charteau (Brioches La Boulangere), Laurent Brochard (Ag2r), Scott Sunderland (Alessio), and Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)?attacked. Padrnos was called back to the bunch, but the others proceeded. Cooperation was poor, and Virenque and Rasmussen attacked their companions on the Category 2 Col des Limouches. O?Grady, Hushovd, Garcia Acosta, Vandevelde, Charteau, and Aitor Gonzalez joined them. At this point, the bunch led the break by almost six minutes.
Behind, Ullrich attacked on the Category 1 Col de l?Echarasson. At the summit of the climb, Virenque and Rasmussen led Ullrich by 1:54 and the Armstrong group by 2:45. Voeckler had dropped off of the pace, and Armstrong was maillot jaune on the road. Ullrich picked up Santos Gonzalez and Brochard.
With 37 km left, Virenque and Rasmussen led the Ullrich group by 1:15 and the 11-strong Armstrong group by 1:50. Nine km later, the Armstrong group overtook Ullrich?s trio. The 14 pursuers were within 1:00 of the leaders.
Floyd Landis (U.S. Postal Service) began to drive the pursuit. Santos and Aitor Gonzalez were dropped. Halfway up the Category 2 Col de Chalimont, with the break in sight, Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) bridged up to Virenque and Rasmussen. The American dropped the pair and forged a smaill lead with 15 km left. Carlos Sastre (CSC) led the chase that brought Leipheimer back.
On the short finishing climb, Kloden attacked and dropped Rasmussen, Voigt, Sastre, and Jose Azevedo (U.S. Postal Service). With 500 m left, Leipheimer attacked. Basso made his move with 200 m remaining, but Armstrong powered past the Italian to win easily.
In the overall, Armstrong leads Basso by 1:25 and Kloden by 3:22. Stage 16 will further affect the standings. The stage will be a 15.5-km time trial from Bourg d?Oisans to the top of perhaps the most fabled climb in cycling, L?Alpe d?Huez. Who will win? Armstrong? Basso? Kloden? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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