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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.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 LINKS
Tour de France 2009 - the hub: Index to reports, photos, previews and more.
Stage three: Cavendish wins second stage as Armstrong distances Contador
Stage two: Cavendish takes first sprint
Stage one: Cancellara wins opening time trial
Tour de France 2009 News Index
The Feed Zone: Monday, July 6
Analysis: Why Columbia must expect to do the bulk of the chasing
Wiggins challenging for top 20 overall
The Feed Zone: Sunday, July 5
Cancellara: Tour time trial win proves I'm back
Tour de France teams in Monaco presentation
Boonen free to ride in Tour de France
Stage three: David Brailsford interview
Stage two: Mark Cavendish on the Tour
Stage one: Jonathan Vaughters on Bradley Wiggins' chances
TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 PHOTOS
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Team presentation by Andy Jones
Team presentation by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2009 - the hub
Tour de France 2009: Who's riding
Tour de France 2009: Team guide
About the Tour de France
Tour de France 2009 on TV: Eurosport and ITV4 schedules
Big names missing from 2009 Tour de France
Tour de France anti-doping measures explained
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish
Cycling Weekly's rider profiles
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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.
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