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Archive for Saturday, July 10, 2004

Armstrong recovers from early fall

France’s Voeckler remains overall leader; Belgium’s Boonen claims victory in sixth stage

July 10, 2004

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— Lance Armstrong recovered from an early fall and avoided a late crash, finishing in a pack behind stage winner and former teammate Tom Boonen of Belgium in the Tour de France on Friday.

Armstrong, trying for a record sixth straight Tour title, was thrown from his bike but not hurt in a crash involving a number of cyclists about 20 minutes into the sixth stage, a 122-mile run from Bonneval to Angers.

Armstrong and rival Jan Ullrich of T-Mobile managed to stay clear of a major wreck near the finish that involved all but about 30 riders.

According to the rules, competitors held up in a crash in the final kilometer of a stage are given the same time as the winner.

Boonen and a pack of riders, including Armstrong and Ullrich, finished the stage in 4 hours, 33 minutes, 41 seconds. Ullrich was 26th, and Armstrong 34th.

Thomas Voeckler of France retained the overall leader's yellow jersey and was 9 minutes, 35 seconds ahead of the sixth-place Armstrong. Ullrich is another 55 seconds back.

Armstrong quickly got back in the race after the early fall and, with help from his U.S. Postal Service teammates, caught up with the pack

"It was a typical early race crash," he said. "There's nothing you can do. You hit the brakes, but bikes don't stop that fast, so I just went over."

Armstrong said he was not seriously hurt.

"It wasn't bad, a little bit on the arm, a little bit on the hip," he said.

The five-time champion also criticized organizers for the narrow layout of the final stretch into the finish.

"Coming in, they've got the barriers really tight, and you've got 200 guys racing through there at 40 mph. ... You're going to have crashes," Armstrong said.

Boonen won a sprint finish, speeding past Cofidis' Stuart O'Grady of Australia and T-Mobile rider Erik Zabel of Germany, hoisting his arms into air as he crossed the line.

"It was really a great win," said Boonen, who is riding in his first Tour.

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