» This Story:Read +| Comments

Hard Push Gives Armstrong Hope After 16th Stage

Discussion Policy
Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.
By Jamey Keaten and Samuel Petrequin
Associated Press
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

BOURG-SAINT-MAURICE, France, July 21 -- Lance Armstrong mustered one of his strongest showings yet at this Tour de France on Tuesday, a dazzling burst of acceleration from yesteryear that allowed him to keep second place.

This Story

The seven-time champion was so buoyed by the performance that he suggested he could still contend for the yellow jersey if teammate and race leader Alberto Contador has a "bad day."

Armstrong, speaking after the 16th stage in the Alps, stressed he doesn't expect that to happen and only a "big shake-up" would allow for such a scenario.

Contador, the 2007 Tour winner, had to fight to retain the overall lead in the 99-mile stage from the Swiss town of Martigny to Bourg-Saint-Maurice, France, which was won by Mikel Astarloza of Spain.

As Contador tried to keep pace with two attackers on the final climb, the 37-year-old Texan lagged. But after dropping back at least 35 seconds, he popped out of his saddle and recovered lost ground.

"I had no choice. . . . So I waited until we had a steeper section and then I got away with an acceleration," he said.

Contador was impressed, but not surprised.

"It's easy to explain -- he's a very great rider," said Contador, who leads his Astana teammate by 1 minute 37 seconds. "He was in the past, and he showed it once again."

Contador and Armstrong finished in a small group of race leaders behind Astarloza. The route featured the highest peak this year, the snowcapped Grand-Saint-Bernard pass on the Swiss-Italian border, at 8,113 feet, and its sister the Petit-Saint-Bernard pass, on the Italian-French border.

Armstrong says he's feeling better on his bike than he did during Sunday's entree into the Alps, when Contador dusted him and the entire pack on the ride up to the Swiss ski station of Verbier.

"I made some changes to my position yesterday -- I raised the seat height," he said. "So in general, I was pedaling better today."

Armstrong committed himself to help Contador win the three-week race after the Spaniard took the yellow jersey in Verbier. Armstrong appeared to shut down his own ambitions then. But at cycling's main event -- which ends Sunday in Paris -- anything can happen.

"If he were to have a bad day, I think I could cover the moves for the team," Armstrong said of Contador. "But I don't think he's going to have a bad day."

In the interview, Armstrong was coy about competing next year, saying only, "There's a pretty good chance I'll be there." But in an e-mail to the AP later in the day, Armstrong's manager, Mark Higgins, said the Texan will "for sure" be part of the race next year.

Astarloza, who rides for the Euskadi Euskaltel team, thrust his fists in the air and kissed his fingers as he crossed the line in 4 hours 14 minutes 20 seconds.

"This is the biggest day of my career," Astarloza said.



» This Story:Read +| Comments

More in the Sports Section

Compete

Stadium Guide

Take an interactive tour of the district's newest stadium, Nationals Park.

Talking Points

Talking Points

Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon discuss the hot topics in sports.

Fantasy

D.C. Sports Bog

Dan Steinberg gives you an inside look at all of your favorite local teams.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company