In attack mode

Armstrong picks himself up and widens his lead in Tour

New York Times News Service

LUZ ARDIDEN, France -- Lance Armstrong crashed to the roadway on the last of six climbs on Monday in the Pyrenees, then picked himself up and said, "Lance, if you want to win the Tour, attack."

He did, with force. He built an overall lead of 1 minute 7 seconds over Jan Ullrich of Germany, up from a shaky 15 seconds, and took a big step toward his fifth consecutive victory in the Tour de France.

Despite the show of restored power after a week of subpar performances, Armstrong was wary of talking about victory before the final of four stages in the Pyrenees and a long time trial on Saturday.


"The Tour finishes on the Champs-Elysees," he said, referring to the race's final leg on Sunday. "Ullrich is a great rider. Anything is still possible."

Armstrong fell to the pavement after hitting a spectator with about 5.5 miles left in the climb to Luz Ardiden, a resort town.

He remounted and sped to join the main group, which had slowed at the urging of Tyler Hamilton, Armstrong's former lieutenant with the U.S. Postal Service team and now the leader of the CSC team. Cycling's unwritten code of chivalry dictates that riders not take advantage of the leader when he has crashed.

Armstrong encountered another mishap when his right foot came out of its pedal, but once he corrected his wobble, he raced away and nobody could catch him.

It was his first stage victory in this year's Tour, although his team previously won a time trial.

With his face set in a grimace of determination, Armstrong rode as he had in the mountains in his four Tour victories and as he had not done in this race -- with facility and suppleness.

"I wasn't angry when I attacked," he said, "I was desperate to gain time on Ullrich before the time "trial."

He finished 40 seconds ahead of Ullrich and received a 20-second bonus for his victory. Ullrich, the leader of the Bianchi team, received an 8-second bonus for finishing third, making the margin between the two 1:07.


Alexandre Vinokourov, a Kazakh with Telekom who was 18 seconds back in third place before this 15th of 20 daily stages, lost more than 2 minutes. Still third over all, he now trails by 2:45.

Armstrong was timed in 4 hours 29 minutes 26 seconds, for an average speed of 35.5 kilometers an hour (22.1 miles an hour) over the 159.5 kilometers (99.1 miles) from Bagneres de Bigorre in cool weather that turned warm whenever the sun came out.

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