Armstrong Wins Stage 13 of Tour; Voeckler Keeps Yellow Jersey
Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal Service) has won Stage 13 of the Tour de France. The five-time defending champion outsprinted Ivan Basso (CSC) to win the mountainous, 205.5-km ride from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille in 6:04:38. Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner) finished third at 1:05, and Thomas Voeckler (Brioches La Boulangere) heroically kept the yellow jersey.
The racing began early. After numerous abortive sallies, Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches La Boulangere) and Jens Voigt (CSC) escaped at 26 km, and Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) joined them later. Behind, U.S. Postal Service hammered at the front, and maillot jaune Voeckler was in early difficulty.
On the Category 1 Col d'Agnes, with the 22-strong peloton 4:30 behind the leaders, Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) attacked. Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) attempted to abandon, but directeur sportif Julian Gorospe and Mayo's teammates persuaded him to continue. Tyler Hamilton (Phonak), who had injured his back in a Stage 6 crash, abandoned, as did Denis Menchov (Illes Balears) and Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel). At the top of the climb, Voeckler was 0:20 behind the peloton. At the front of the race, Rasmussen and Voigt dropped Chavanel.
Armstrong punctured on the descent of the Port de Lers. U.S. Postal Service slowed the pursuit to allow the defending champion to get back on and then resumed the torture. At the base of the finishing climb, Voeckler and Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) were dropped immediately as Jose Luis Rubiera and Jose Azevedo (both from U.S. Postal Service) did the pacemaking. With 10 km remaining, Rasmussen was caught and dropped. With seven km left, Armstrong and Basso were alone to fight out the finish. They stayed together until the last 100 m, when Armstrong jumped Basso.
In the overall, Voeckler, after repeatedly being dropped during the stage, stayed close enough to Armstrong to lead him by 0:22. Basso is third at 1:39. Stage 14 will not change this state of affairs. The flat, 192.5-km run from Carcassonne to Nimes could see a group of no-hope escapees battle for the day's honors. To find out if that happens, check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/.
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