Lance Armstrong’s last dance at
the Tour de France is now surely a triumphal waltz to the finish line, after an
astonishing virtuoso mountain climb at the end of this morning’s 10th stage to reclaim the race leader’s yellow
jersey.

While he finished behind Alejandro Valverde, who just out-sprinted the Texan at the end of a palpably cruel and gruelling
category one climb to the finish at Courchevel, you had to see the way
Armstrong upped the tempo during that final climb to fully appreciate
what an unbelievable rider he is. Just three other riders were able to
stick with Armstrong’s assault until that last sprint, as he orchestrated
the decimation of his major rivals. Surely, only bad luck or injury can
now prevent him from retiring with a record seventh straight Tour win.

Although Danish mountain goat Michael Rasmussen stuck with him
virtually until the end, only Valverde was able to match
Armstrong’s final surge, and then just edged him out of the stage win.
Rasmussen as current King of the Mountains is now 38 seconds down on
Armstrong in second place, but arch rival Jan Ullrich was left reeling
from the Alpine assault to stagger home more than four minutes behind
and seemingly without a weapon to challenge the race leader’s
superiority between now and Paris.

With the highest climb on the
tour part of tonight’s 11th stage, Armstrong is taking nothing for
granted while conceding he’s now well placed. “We’re in a good position as
compared to some of the main rivals – but there’s still a lot of racing to go.
We have another day in the Alps, a
transition stage, then two very tough days in the Pyrenees, then the final time
trial.”

Australia’s general
classification hope Cadel Evans was anything but disgraced in finishing eighth
in today’s stage.

Peter Fray

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