Armstrong Falls to Fourth Place in Stage 14 of Tour de France; Race Marred by Spectator's Death
Sunday, July 19, 2009
BESANÇON, France, July 18 -- Lance Armstrong dropped one spot to fourth place Saturday at the Tour de France during a stage overshadowed by the roadside death of a woman hit by a police motorcycle.
Serguei Ivanov of Russia won the 14th stage and Armstrong's former teammate George Hincapie rose to second, just missing the yellow jersey. Hincapie arrived 16 seconds after Ivanov in a small breakaway group.
Hincapie is five seconds behind overall leader Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy. Nocentini was 5 minutes 36 seconds behind the breakaway group but kept the yellow jersey an eighth straight day.
Alberto Contador dropped from second to third. Contador, Armstrong's Astana teammate and the 2007 champion, is six seconds behind Nocentini. Armstrong is another two seconds back.
Hincapie is the only rider to be a teammate of Armstrong as he won seven straight Tour titles from 1999 to 2005. Hincapie wore the leader's shirt for a day in 2006 -- the year after Armstrong retired.
"George is a good friend," Armstrong said. "We wanted him to have the jersey -- it would have been great for him."
The accident happened 24 miles into the 124-mile trip from Colmar to Besançon. The victim, identified by organizers as a 61-year-old woman, was crossing the road when struck by a motorcycle escorting riders. Two others were injured and taken to a hospital when the motorcycle skidded into them. One was 36 and complained of neck pain; the other was 61 and had a broken leg.
Hincapie, a 36-year-old American who rides for the Columbia team, entered the stage 5:25 behind Nocentini in 28th place. Through the final miles, Hincapie's breakaway group was more than six minutes ahead of the Italian, fanning suspense about the yellow shirt.
Nocentini's AG2R-La Mondiale team, then American team Garmin both accelerated the pace, trimming the gap by the finish. Hincapie missed the yellow jersey by seconds.
TV cameras showed a frustrated Hincapie as he watched Nocentini's pack cross the finish line. He did not speak to reporters before entering the team bus.
"Until 10km to go he was solidly in yellow until GARMIN put on the gas and made sure it didn't happen," Armstrong wrote on his Twitter feed. "(Hincapie) deserves to be in yellow tonight. He deserves more than that."
Ivanov made a sign of the cross as he finished the stage in 4:37:46 after escaping the breakaway group with about seven miles left.
Ireland's Nicolas Roche, son of former Tour champion Stephen Roche, was second, and Hayden Roulston of New Zealand was third. They finished with Hincapie, 16 seconds behind Ivanov.
The 34-year-old Russian national champion, who won a Tour stage in 2001, collapsed on a curb after finishing to catch his breath.
"It's an amazing victory," he said. "I didn't have any more air. I was just two minutes, breathing, breathing. . . . I gave all my energy."
Ivanov rose to 56th place overall, 27:47 behind Nocentini. The Russian entered the day's stage in 62th place, 33:23 back.
The race enters the Alps for Sunday's 15th stage, a 129-mile ride from Pontarlier, France, to the Swiss ski station of Verbier. The three-week Tour ends July 26 in Paris.