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Bruyneel: ‘We’ll ride for Levi now’

Johan Bruyneel said RadioShack will rally its forces around Levi Leipheimer after Lance Armstrong lost all hope of winning the 2010 Tour de France.

Tour de France, Stage 6: Leipheimer enjoyed a relatively quet day in the peloton.
Leipheimer is in eighth place on GC, at 2:14.

Armstrong lost 11:45 after a crash at the base of the Col de la Ramaz knocked him out of contention, but Leipheimer kept RadioShack’s podium options alive after he finished safely with the elite group of 13. Leipheimer crossed the line eighth at 10 seconds behind Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and slotted into eighth overall at 2:14.

“It’s obvious that Lance will not be able to win the Tour, so now we will look for new options for the team,” Bruyneel said after Sunday’s stage. “We will ride to support Levi and maybe Lance can recover to try to win a stage.”

Bad luck has derailed the ambitious Tour plans for RadioShack. Armstrong punctured on the cobblestones in stage four to cede time on a day when the team expected to come out ahead. Andreas Kloden lost four minutes in Saturday’s mountain stage to fall out of podium range before things fell apart for Armstrong on Sunday.

“Lance lost this Tour for bad luck. Physically, there’s no reason to believe that he couldn’t have been competitive in this Tour. He came to this Tour in good shape with real ambitions to win,” Bruyneel said. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy for him to win this Tour, but we came here with that as a goal. Even today we saw Contador not as strong as he was last year. Today we simply didn’t have the luck.”

Bruyneel said Armstrong banged his hip fairly hard when he crashed on a round-about at the base of the Ramaz climb. The team put four riders to help tow Armstrong back to the front group, but they quickly realized it would be difficult to stay with the leaders for the remainder of the stage.

“It was a very hard effort to come back from the crash. The crash came at a bad moment because the race was on,” he said. “He said he didn’t have full strength and then it became impossible to close the gap when he got caught up in the final crash.”

Bruyneel helped direct Armstrong to a record seven consecutive Tour victories, but said neither will be nostalgic. At least not right now.

“It’s not the end of (the Armstrong) myth,” he said. “It is the end of Armstrong’s chances to win this year’s Tour.”