Lance Armstrong’s hopes of winning an eighth Tour de France unraveled Sunday after he was caught up in three pileups during the 189km eighth stage and lost more than 11 minutes to the GC favorites.
With a bloodied left knee and trailing the leaders by five minutes at the base of the final,13.6km climb up Avoriaz, all Armstrong could do was shake his head. While Andy Schleck sprinted to victory, Armstrong crossed the line 11 minutes, 45 seconds in arrears and admitted that his Tour hopes are done.
“It just wasn’t my day. It just went from bad to worse,” Armstrong told French television at the finish line. “I had a bad day. I’ve had a lot of good days at the Tour. This Tour is finished for me. But I am staying in the race. I will work for my team now.”
Armstrong slipped out of contention to 39th at 13:26.
Rough and tumble day
“We came into that round-about before the Col de la Ramaz. I clipped a pedal and then my tire rolled off and the next thing I was rolling along the ground at 60-65kph,” said Armstrong. “It’s already hard to come back, hard on the body.”
Armstrong crashed at the worst possible moment. Stage-winner Andy Schleck said Armstrong crashed right in front of him and he said he was sad to see the seven-time Tour champ tumble out of contention.
“He crashed right in front of me. Something happened and he punctured his front tire and went down really hard. He was pretty beaten up. I thought he would really be up there in the front today, just all this bad luck for him,” Schleck said. “I feel little bit sorry for him. I know he wanted to be good in his last Tour. I think his morale is really low. I think he will try to win a stage.”
Armstrong had four teammates to tow him back to the bunch, but the effort cost him at a critical moment of the stage. Team Sky, then Saxo Bank’s Jakob Fulgsang put in big efforts to shred the pack. Armstrong tailed off the back and Astana went to the front, with Jesús Hernández, Dani Navarro and Maxim Iglinsky setting a brutal pace that put all the GC riders under the gun.
Armstrong had Chris Horner and Janez Brajkovic to help him pace up the Ramaz, and the Armstrong summited about 1 minute back, still within reach of trying to regaining contact with the front group on the flats and Cat. 3 climb into Les Gets.
Things went sideways yet again when the group rolled through the Les Gets with 21km to go. An Euskaltel-Euskadi rider missed a feed bag and crashed. Armstrong didn’t fall but was forced to clip out of his pedals, ceding 2:45 to the leaders as they rolled into Morzine at the base of the final climb to Avoriaz.
Contador, meanwhile, turned the screws, putting Paolo Tiralongo, Alexander Vinokourov and Navarro at the front to drive the main pack up the opening switchbacks on the 13.6km climb to Avoriaz.
Armstrong was more than 5 minutes behind the leaders and all he could was shake his head. His Tour hopes were over.