Armstrong Wins Stage 17, Stays in Yellow

Lance Armstrong won his fourth stage of the 2004 Tour Thursday, blasting across the finish line of the 128-mile Stage 17 from Bourg d'Oisans to Le Grand Bornand inches ahead of his rivals. The win was Armstrong's 20th career stage win at the Tour and proved to be an intense one as the Texan was just able to edge T-Mobile's Andrée;as Klöden in a last second bid for the win. Klöden finished second while Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile), Ivan Basso (CSC), and Floyd Landis (U.S. Postal) rounded out the top five respectively.

Lance Armstrong won yet another stage today, creating a gap of more than four minutes over his nearest competitors

Lance Armstrong won yet another stage today, creating a gap of more than four minutes over his nearest competitors

With the win, Armstrong extended his lead to 4:09 over closest rival Basso. Klöden is in third place in the overall standings while Ullrich is hovering 8:08 behind Armstrong in fourth place. Armstrong teammate Josée; Azevedo (U.S. Postal) is in fifth overall.

An early lead by six riders including Gilberto Simoni (Saeco), Richard Virenque (Quick Step-Davitamon), and Christophe Moreau (Crée;dit Agricole) put 7:33 between the group and the peloton but the group was unable to hold the pace. Simoni, Virenque, and Moreau eventually dropped the rest of the contenders and broke away on their own.

On the strength of Virenque's performance on the various climbs of the stage, he was able to clinch the King of the Mountain polka dotted jersey for an unprecedented seventh time, presuming that he finishes the Tour.

But the trio of Virenque, Simoni, and Moreau was unable to hold on to the lead. With 17 miles left in the stage, the gap had been reduced to 1:58 by Landis's pacing. Moments later, an attack by Carlos Sastre (CSC) was enough to catch and pass the leading trio, with a failed effort by Virenque to stay with the CSC domestique. Virenque, Moreau, and Simoni were eventually caught by a group composed of Armstrong, Landis, Sastre, Basso, Klöden, and Ullrich. The group eventually dropped Sastre and powered toward the finish line.

Despite an attack by Landis and an effort by Armstrong to help give his domestique the win, Landis simply didn't have enough juice to lead the way across the finish line. Klöden launched a high-powered attack in sight of the finish but Armstrong responded, plowing past the German and grabbing the win by inches.

Friday the Tour takes its riders 103 miles from Annemasse to Lons-le-Saunier in Stage 18 of the race.

Lead Photo: Beth Schneider
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