Lance Armstrong has denied he rode deliberately to gain time on his team-mate Alberto Contador when the bunch split in the closing stages of Monday’s Tour de France stage.

The 37-year-old said he used his experience and a little luck to move up the bunch at a crucial time, just as a subtle kink in the road meant a change of wind direction. Although the wind was not strong, it was enough to spark a fight for wheels further down the line.

”It’s not rocket science,” he said. “When it’s flat and even a little bit windy there’s a chance the bunch will split. 

”It was experience, luck. I saw what was up ahead and I moved up so I was 20 guys back.”

He said he was unaware of where Contador was in the bunch when the split happened. Asked if he had been trying to gain time on his team-mate, he said: “That wasn’t the objective.”

Armstrong and his Astana team-mates Yaroslav Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia were among the 29-strong front group, which contained the yellow jersey, Fabian Cancellara and the entire Columbia-HTC team.

The break went clear with 31 kilometres to go and the gap stayed around 20 to 25 seconds before stretching out to 41 seconds by the finish.

With 15 kilometres to go, Armstrong moved to the front of the group and made a circling motion with his finger, signalling to Zubeldia and Popovych to start working.

He added: “We didn’t ride for a long time. We waited for a long time. They [Columbia] were frustrated we weren’t riding.

”The whole Columbia team was up there, we had three up there. I’ve won the Tour de France seven times, it makes no sense why we wouldn’t ride.”

Armstrong started the day 22 seconds behind Contador, the fourth best of the Astana team overall. He ended it third overall behind Cancellara and Tony Martin, but more importantly, 19 seconds ahead of Contador.

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Tour de France 2009 – the hub
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  • Dave Rivero

    I think Lance and the other two Astana guys were placed just right, and that it wasn’t something that was done to slight or take time out of Contador, no matter what Delgado may say. Experience wins out in this case. If Contador is as strong as people think he is, then he should take some serious time back in the mountains. If he isn’t, then I would think and expect the leadership to change to the strongest team member, whether that is Lance, Kloden, or Levi.

  • Simon Evans

    The leadership was pretty set in stone back in the US Postal days. Armstrong used to slate T-Mobile for having too many chiefs.

  • Dave

    Contador missed a great opportunity. If he had shown the same tactical nous as Armstrong they would have both been in the leading group. Armstrong needed a few seconds to pull back the defecit he sufferred in the time trial. The other big playes were back in the peleton. Contador lost time to Armstrong but didn’t lose anything to the other main players so I don’t think he will be too put out by the incident.

  • Steve Rosewell

    Armstrong played a blinder yesterday and it was more judgement than luck. He says it was not his objective to gain time on Contador but when he seized the opportunity, that is all that would have been on his mind.
    Regarding Simon Evans comments about team leadership… it can’t be set in stone can it? if Armstrong or Leipheimer start to look better than Contador then the team focus will change almost immediately. Astana are playing it smart and don’t believe a word any of the riders say…. this is gamesmanship of the highest order and this tour will see treachery and allegiance in equal measures.
    P.S Some pundits have backed Cancellara as tour winner! Not while my Ass points downwards!!

  • Simon Evans

    I can’t see why Popovych and Zubeldia were working on the front if Contador is the team leader, as Bruynel says. Alberto is getting stitched up – i’m half expecting him to shove a stick in Amstrong’s spokes during the TTT today. Contador needs to unleash the fury on the way up to Andora in order to stamp some authority on the team

  • Martin Kennedy

    Which tv were you watching! Armstrong never went to the front of the breakaway group; it was Popovych.
    The continued use of radios meant that Armstrong knew he could gain time on his main rivals – with the exception of Cancellara.
    What a great day’s racing!

  • Dude

    did you actually watch the race?
    Popo moved to the front and made the circular motion. Armstrong never spent time pulling.
    What would you have had Armstrong do stop and join the group that got left behind. This kind of thing could be talked about but not like it was a set play in a football match.
    idiot. I can’t believe I wasted time reading and responding to this dribble.