Lance Armstrong was looking forward to the end of the Tour de France and it came much sooner than expected — at least as far as his hopes of winning the race for the eighth time were concerned.
The 38-year-old American suffered an ordeal in the 189km trek from Les Rousses, crashing hard with 51km left and he could not keep up with the leaders in the penultimate ascent to the Col de la Ramaz.
“There was a roundabout before La Ramaz. I clipped a pedal and the front tyre rolled off,” Armstrong said after crossing the line 11 minutes 45 seconds behind stage winner Andy Schleck of Luxembourg.
“Next thing I know I was rolling on the ground at 60/65 kph. It was just hard to come back [to the main pack]. We didn’t make it back until the start of La Ramaz.”
Armstrong, riding in his last Tour before quitting competitive cycling, lies 39th overall, 13,26 adrift of Australian Cadel Evans.
There appears no way that Armstrong, who said this week he was looking forward to the end of the Tour, can make up the gap.
“The Tour is over but I’m gonna hang in there,” he said.
Armstrong, who rarely crashed during his 1999-2005 reign in the world’s greatest cycling race, hit the ground in the second stage on Monday and more misfortunes were to follow.
He was involved in a pile-up after only 7km on Sunday, he crashed before the climb to La Ramaz and had to step down from his bike later in the stage after a crash in front of him.
“He had more bad luck today than in the seven years he won the Tour,” Frankie Andreu, his former teammate and now a television reporter, told Reuters.
“Since his comeback, it’s been one thing after another.”
A man to leave nothing to chance, Armstrong broke his collarbone in a crash in his comeback season but still finished third overall in the Tour.
This season, he has been hampered by illness and crashed in the Tour of California in May on the day former teammate Floyd Landis accused him of doping earlier in his career.
“He just crashed in front of me. After that he came back but he was pretty beaten up,” Schleck, a good friend of Armstrong’s told a news conference.
“He lost contact with our group. I expected him to be out there in the front. I have a lot of respect for him. To be really honest I feel sorry for him.”
Schleck, however, said Armstrong would not simply fade away in the race.
“Obviously, he will win a stage,” he said.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme suggested Armstrong may also have suffered from the heat as temperatures reached 32°C on the road.
“He suffered a lot in 2003, the year of the heatwave,” he told reporters.
“If he reaches Paris, it will be outside the overall classification. I did not imagine he could lose more than 11 minutes in a mountain stage. And I don’t think he expected it.” – Reuters