Lance Armstrong drops to 4th after 17th stage

Thursday, July 23, 2009


-GRAND-BORNAND, France -- Alberto Contador closed in on victory at the Tour de France on Wednesday after finishing second behind Frank Schleck in the 17th stage as the race left the Alps.
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Lance Armstrong trailed by more than 2 minutes and fell from second to fourth overall in the 105-mile ride from Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Le Grand-Bornand -- seen by many as the toughest stage this year.
The stage likely ended any realistic chance Armstrong had of overtaking his Astana teammate Contador, and the seven-time Tour champion will now have to fight for a place on the podium instead.
Contador kept the yellow jersey by staying with Schleck and his younger brother Andy in a three-man breakaway at the end of the stage. Andy Schleck finished third and Armstrong fifth, 2:18 back.
"I'm very proud of myself -- I'm proud of my brother," Frank Schleck said.
The Schleck brothers leapfrogged Armstrong in the overall standings, with Andy 2:26 behind Contador in second place and Frank 3:25 behind in third. Armstrong trails Contador by 3:55.
The stage featured five climbs, but the drama set in during the last two -- the super-steep Romme and Colombiere passes. Contador proved he cannot be shaken by his rivals in the mountains.
On the Colombiere, Armstrong couldn't keep up when Contador pulled away with Astana teammate Andreas Kloeden and the Schlecks, who ride for the Saxo Bank team.
Armstrong isn't ruling out second place on the podium.
"Yes, it's still my goal, I think it's possible," he said.
Armstrong, Kloeden and Bradley Wiggins are stronger time-trial riders than the Schlecks and could make up time in the 25.2-mile race vs. the clock in Annecy today.

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