Lance Armstrong Once Again in Third Place After Stage 9

Rinaldo Nocentini, left, retained the yellow jersey with Lance Armstrong in third.
Rinaldo Nocentini, left, retained the yellow jersey with Lance Armstrong in third. (By Bas Czerwinski -- Associated Press)
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Monday, July 13, 2009

TARBES, France, July 12 -- Lance Armstrong stayed in third place at the Tour de France on Sunday after a deliberate ride on the last day in the Pyrenees.

Pierrick Fedrigo of France sped past a lone rival in a breakaway to win the mountainous ninth stage. Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy held the yellow jersey for the third straight day. He is followed in the overall standings by Astana teammates Alberto Contador and Armstrong.

"Today was pretty controlled, I thought, although it's never easy," Armstrong said. "It was very hot; the tempo was pretty regular."

Nocentini is six seconds ahead of Contador, the 2007 champion. Armstrong, the seven-time champion, is eight seconds behind.

"We [Astana] just sat there and kind of rode our race," Armstrong said.

Levi Leipheimer of the United States follows Armstrong in the standings, 39 seconds behind Nocentini, giving Astana the second, third and fourth spots.

Among other favorites, Christian Vande Velde of the U.S. is eighth, 1 minute 24 seconds behind; Andy Schleck of Luxembourg is 1:49 back in ninth; defending Tour champion Carlos Sastre of Spain is 2:52 back in 16th; and Cadel Evans of Australia is 3:07 back in 18th place.

Armstrong predicts the first big shakeout will come on Stage 15, when riders go from Pontarlier, France, to the Swiss ski resort of Verbier, featuring an uphill finish.

"Now we're going to have three or four days that probably won't change the classification," he said. "I think all of the favorites are considering that Verbier is the next big test."

Sunday's 100-mile stage from Saint-Gaudens to Tarbes took riders up two tough climbs, including the Tourmalet pass, and through the Roman Catholic shrine town of Lourdes.

Fedrigo, a 30-year-old rider who won a Tour stage in 2006, and Pellizotti finished in 4:05.31. The pack was 34 seconds behind.

"It's pure happiness," Fedrigo said after pulling ahead of Italy's Franco Pellizotti following the final turn in Tarbes. "I knew I needed to go all out, and that's what I did."

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