Once again sporting the yellow jersey – and with girlfriend Sheryl Crow not far from him – Lance Armstrong took a giant step toward a seventh consecutive Tour victory on Tuesday, reclaiming the overall lead and distancing himself from his main rivals on the first Alpine climb of the race.
In a sprint to the finish line, the 33-year-old, six-time Tour champion finished second to Spain’s Alejandro Valverde in the 10th stage, a 111-mile trek up to the ski resort of Courchevel. En route, Armstrong built a 38-second overall lead and moved well ahead of challengers Alexandre Vinokourov, Jan Ullrich and Andreas Kloeden – to finish the stage in 4 hours, 50 minutes, 35 seconds.
As for Crow, the 43-year-old singer also cycled the most difficult leg of the course, including the difficult hairpin bends of L’Alpe D’Huez. “I did the whole stretch even though I might not have set a new record,” Crow told reporters. “It was extremely difficult.”
After the stage, Armstrong shot back at doubters who suggested his Discovery Team might be vulnerable after struggling in a moderately difficult stage Saturday, the Associated Press reports.
“To say the guy who has won the Tour de France six times is lucky to take the jersey again … how you can say those things I have no idea,” Armstrong said. “That’s not respectful, that’s not true, and that’s not reality.”
Wednesday’s next stage (the Tour ends in Paris on July 24) is a difficult, 108-mile run through the Alps over three famed ascents.