Armstrong Buries Competition in Individual Time Trial

Five-time Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong snuffed out any question of whether he has a sixth Tour win in him Wednesday as he buried his closest rivals on Stage 16's 10-mile L'Alpe d'Huez time trial course. Armstrong posted a time of 39:41, 61 seconds better than second place finisher and five-time Tour runner-up Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) — the exact margin of victory Armstrong logged over Ullrich in his Tour win last year. The Texan's winning time is just one second off the individual time trail record set by Marco Pantani in 1997.

Armstrong blazed to the finish of Wednesday's individual time trial in a cool 39:41

Armstrong blazed to the finish of Wednesday's individual time trial in a cool 39:41

Armstrong's closest competitor after Stage 15 was Italian Ivan Basso (CSC) who was just 1:25 behind the Texan. In conjunction with Tour rules, Basso left the gate two minutes prior to Armstrong, who was last to tackle the course. Armstrong not only posted a better time than Basso, he passed him just over seven miles into the course, laying the groundwork for a victory in this year's Tour.

Basso, who finished eighth in the time trial, held on to his second place standing but fell 3:48 minutes behind Armstrong.

Andréas Klön (T-Mobile) finished third on the day while José Azevedo finished fourth. Santos Gonzalez (Phonak) rounded out the top five.

Klön currently stands at third place in the overall standings while Ullrich is fourth, falling from 6:54 to 7:55 behind the U.S. Postal leader. Armstrong teammate José Azevedo (U.S. Postal) rounds out the top five overall.

Although there are still four days of racing left in the Tour, if Armstrong stays out of trouble, he has enough of a berth over his rivals to virtually guarantee a sixth consecutive win.

Thursday, riders will tackle the 132-mile Stage 17 from Bourg d'Oisans to Le Grand Bornand, which boasts one of the most difficult layouts of the Tour with five mountain passes and over 16,000 feet of climbing.

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