Armstrong’s Tour hopes ‘finished’ after 8th stage

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MORZINE, France (AP) — Lance Armstrong said his hopes of Tour de France victory are finished after he struggled in the Alps and was caught up in three crashes during an eighth stage won by Andy Schleck of Luxembourg on Sunday.

World champion Cadel Evans of Australia took the yellow jersey at the end of the stage, with overnight leader Sylvain Chavanel — like Armstrong — falling behind the top contenders on the tough La Ramaz climb.

The Texan crossed the finish line nearly 12 minutes behind Schleck after the 117.4-mile run from Station des Rousses to the Morzine-Avoriaz ski resort.

“My Tour is finished,” said Armstrong, who holds a record seven Tour victories and is riding in what he says will be his last try in cycling’s showcase event. The 38-year-old plunged to 39th place overall.

Armstrong said he had a “very, very bad day,” but will continue the three-week race that ends July 25 in Paris.

Schleck showed he’s one of the world’s best climbers by surging to the head of the pack with less than a mile left and winning a two-man sprint ahead of Samuel Sanchez of Spain.

Schleck, the Saxo Bank team leader, clocked 4 hours, 54 minutes, 11 seconds, while Sanchez had the same time.

Dutch rider Robert Gesink was third, 10 seconds back — as were defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain, and Evans.

Armstrong was 11:45 back, in 61st place.

Evans, a two-time Tour runner-up, leads Schleck by 20 seconds overall and Contador by 61 seconds. Schleck was runner-up last year.

Armstrong is 13:26 back, having begun the day in 14th place, 3:16 behind Chavanel.

With about 12 miles to go, shortly after La Ramaz, Armstrong was held up by a rider who crashed in front of him. Though the Texan did not fall, he was slow to get back on his bike, showing exasperation at his third mishap.

Earlier, with less than 32 miles to go, Armstrong tumbled to the asphalt while trying to negotiate a roundabout along with the pack. His team quickly got him another bike and he returned to the race with the back of his jersey and his bib numbers torn.

“I clipped the pedal and then my tire rolled off,” Armstrong said. “Then, the next thing I know, I was rolling along the ground, at 60-65 (kilometers) an hour.”

He said it was just too tough to clamber back after that.

Armstrong then struggled up the steepest portion of La Ramaz, losing crucial time to his main rivals, Schleck, Contador and Evans.

An earlier incident involving Armstrong and Evans occurred at about 4 miles. Armstrong narrowly averted a spill but still lost time, while Evans fell, ripping his shorts and scraping his elbow and knees.

Monday is the first rest day of the race, which finishes on July 25 in Paris.


AP Sports Writer Jerome Pugmire contributed to this report.