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.
>> Get an extra 5% off the discounted price of a magazine subscription this weekend with the code SPOOKY5. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<
TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 PHOTOS
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