‘MY TOUR IS FINISHED’
Lance Armstrong, involved in three crashes during sunday’s stage, falls more than 13 minutes behind the leader, his quest for an eighth Tour de France victory effectively squashed.
MORZINE, France — It wasn’t supposed to end this way. It was supposed to end on a podium 275 miles to the north.
But with the Tour de France finish line in Paris still two weeks away, Lance Armstrong got pinched in a vice between demo-derby traffic on narrow Alpine roads and a relentless field of young cycling stars. For Armstrong, the greatest Tour champion ever, the pursuit of an eighth yellow jersey is effectively over.
While cycling’s next elite generation easily cruised to the finish, Armstrong finished fading, with a ripped jersey, bruised hip and bleeding knee. He lost 11 min-
See TOUR, C3
Continued from C1 utes, 45 seconds — an unheard of amount of time to fall back for him during his seven-year winning streak.
Three times during the stage, Armstrong was directly or indirectly involved in crashes.
The first occurred about four miles in. The second, at a roundabout, was the worst. Some leaders went left. Armstrong went right. Too far right. His front wheel clipped a concrete barrier, bending at a 90degree angle.
“Then, the next thing I know,” Armstrong said, “I was rolling along the ground, at 60 to 65 kph.
“It was bad luck,” Armstrong said, before pausing a few moments. “At a bad time. There’s not much I can do.”
As he remounted after the second crash, he told Johan Bruyneel, the RadioShack team director, that he probably no longer would be able to stay with the leaders, although he initially tried.
But Sunday there was no mercy from the leaders. As Armstrong rejoined the group of contenders, riders for Team Sky, then Astana, accelerated the tempo in an effort to drop the weakest. Armstrong could not keep up.
His third crash occurred about 12 miles from the finish. He and teammate Chris Horner were forced to stop when a Spanish rider went down in front of them. Armstrong wasn’t hurt.
Armstrong left the celebration for the youngest contender — Andy Schleck, a baby-faced 25-year-old from Luxembourg, who was runner-up at last year’s Tour.
Schleck, in winning the first significant outing in the mountains, slipped past Spain’s Sammy Sanchez, a climbing specialist, as the two arrived at the summit finish in Avoriaz. Schleck attacked late in the stage, a surge defending champion Alberto Contador, the 27-year-old Spaniard, couldn’t answer.
Australia’s Cadel Evans, who at 33 twice has finished as a Tour runner-up, took over the race lead after he was able to stay even with Contador on the final climb.
Evans finished the stage 20 seconds ahead of Schleck in the overall yellow-jersey standings. Contador finished third at 1:01 back.
Armstrong finished in the most unfamiliar territory of all: 39th and 13:26 behind the leader.
“My tour is finished,” Armstrong said, referring to his run for the yellow jersey, not whether he’ll complete the race.
With the three-week Tour enjoying its first rest day today, Team RadioShack will reevaluate its strategy.
“It’s more like the end of our Tour de France,” said Bruyneel. “Everything that could go wrong, went wrong.”
The squad could redirect its efforts around American Levi Leipheimer, who was able to stick with Schleck, Evans and Contador. Leipheimer, who finished on the Tour podium in 2007, finished Sunday eighth overall and 2:14 back.
Or, RadioShack could opt to set up Armstrong with a career au revoir stage win.
“To be honest, I’m a little sorry for him,” Schleck said of Armstrong. “I still believe he will win his stage.”
During his seven-year winning streak, Armstrong suffered only two memorable crashes. Both occurred in 2003. One was near the end of the opening stage, and he lost no time. The second was on a final climb in the Pyrenees, when he won the stage ending in Luz Ardiden and clinched what was a record-tying fifth yellow jersey.
“No tears for me,” Armstrong said late Sunday. “I’ve had a lot of good years here.”
Perhaps he was thinking of those moments, when, after stopping for a brief interview with French television, he got back on his bike and rode alone to the team car.
As he did, Jani Brajkovic, the youngest member of RadioShack and a likely heir, glided toward Armstrong and draped a comforting arm over his shoulder.
Lance Armstrong reacts after finishing the eighth stage Sunday. He now ranks 39th, more than 13 minutes behind overall leader Cadel Evans.
Andy Schleck of Luxembourg crosses the finish line to win the eighth stage of the Tour, in Morzine-Avoriaz, France on Sunday.