x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

New Armstrong goal: a stage win

Lance Armstrong's team manager says the seven-time Tour de France winner had deliberately lost time to save energy for a new goal: a stage victory in his final Tour.

REVEL, FRANCE // Lance Armstrong's team manager said yesterday the seven-time Tour de France winner had deliberately lost time to save energy for a new goal: a stage victory in his final Tour. Johan Bruyneel, the RadioShack boss, said a flat tyre, several crashes and general "bad luck" early in the three-week race put Armstrong out of contention. Ahead of the start of four punishing stages in the Pyrenees, the American had lost time to the Tour leader for four consecutive days. No explanation was provided by the team.

"That's definitely on purpose," Bruyneel said before yesterday's 14th stage. "Now that he's not in contention for the general classification anymore, you try to save strength. And one of these days he may try to get in the breakaway, and he needs all the freshness he has to try to win a stage." Armstrong lost time in the first Alpine ride, then lost more to Alberto Contador, the two-time champion, and Andy Schleck, the current race leader, in the second.

After that, Armstrong was "not a threat anymore" to the leaders, Bruyneel said. "But of course it's better if you're 20 minutes down than if you're 12 minutes down" if a rider wants to win a stage, Bruyneel said. "The main thing is at the end that you sit up [and] in the last 10 [km] you don't do that big effort anymore. You're not stressing about the final of the race and you save a lot of energy. From today on, whenever the opportunity arises, he's going to try to win a stage.

"It's not going to be easy." Armstrong, 38, was in 36th place, 25mins 38secs back of Schleck, at the start of yesterday's 184.5km trek from Revel to the ski resort of Ax-3 Domaines. That course led riders up two extreme climbs. * AP