July 13/99 11:20 am - 11:25 am EDT
Posted by Editor on 07/13/99
Lance Armstrong has truly shown his abilities today, dropping all contenders in the first mountain stage to take his third victory of the Tour, and cement his overall lead. An early breakaway dwindled to one rider - Jose-Luis Arrieta - as the race passed over the first Cat 1 climb, the Col du Telgraphe. Behind, Armstrong's US Postal team was setting the tempo to keep Arrieta in check. Richard Virenque and 3 other riders broke free on the climb, dropping Armstrong in severe rain and mist. However, Kevin Livingston and Tyler Hamilton brought the race leader back to Virenque.
Now the chase of the leader began in ernest. Arrieta heard of the chasers and sat up to wait. The new, recombined front group consisted of Armstrong, Arrieta, Beltran and Alex Zulle (Banesto), Contreras and Escartin (Kelme), Laurent Dufaux (Saeco), Virenque and Ivan Gotti (Polti). The next group of 16, with Livingston, Hamilton and Abraham Olano was over 1 minute in arrears. This group grew in numbers and continued to chase, with ONCE and Mapei Quick Step doing much of the work. In front it was Team Polti doing the work, with Armstrong getting a free ride. As the race entered its final 25 kilometres, Ivan Gotti made repeated attacks, eventually breaking away on his own with 11 kilometres of climbing to the finish at Sestrieres. He was joined by Fernando Escartin, but their lead was short lived, as Armstrong exploded off the front to drop the chasers and then the leaders. Zulle had joined Armstrong, Gotti and Escartin, but the American attacked again and soloed away to victory in the last 5 kilometres, winning by 37 seconds over Zulle, and 1:25 ahead of Gotti and Escartin. Virenque came in 6th, 2:27 down, and Olano lost over 3 minutes. Truly an impressive ride by Armstrong.