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Leader Armstrong cruises to Marseille; Piil wins stage

Posted: Tuesday July 15, 2003 11:01 AM
Updated: Tuesday July 15, 2003 12:58 PM
  Jakob Piil Jakob Piil: "I finally have it. I'm very happy." AP

MARSEILLE, France (AP) -- Lance Armstrong retained his overall lead at the Tour de France after the tenth stage Tuesday, despite losing time to protesters who blocked the route.

Armstrong finished in a large pack of riders who completed the 219.5 kilometer (136-mile) stage from Gap to the southern port city of Marseille more than 21 minutes behind the winner, Jakob Piil of Team CSC. (Full Results | Overall Standings)

All of Armstrong's key rivals finished with him, meaning they did not gain time on the four-time champion who is aiming to tie Spaniard Miguel Indurain's record of five successive wins.

Armstrong, who stood out because he was wearing the overall leader's bright yellow jersey, finished in 45th place, 21 minutes and 23 seconds behind Piil, a Danish rider who had never before won a stage at the Tour.

Key rivals who finished in the same time as Armstrong included Alexandre Vinokourov, in 53rd place, Iban Mayo in 42nd place, 1997 winner Jan Ullrich in 34th place and American rider Tyler Hamilton in 36th place.

Vinokourov, a Kazak rider for Team Telekom, is still second overall, 21 seconds behind Armstrong. Mayo of Spain, a Euskaltel-Euskadi rider, is third overall, 1 minute and 2 seconds back.

After three grueling days in the Alps, and with the sun beating down, the main pack of riders including Armstrong appeared happy to take the stage easy. They let a breakaway group of riders who are not a threat to the Tour's overall leaders get far ahead.

"It was really very hot. There's a lot of riders who are tired," said Vinokourov.

Piil was among the breakaway group of nine riders. They surged ahead of the main pack just 16 kilometers (9.9 miles) into the race and rode on ahead. Their breakaway of more than 200 kilometers (124 miles) was the longest so far of this year's Tour.

Piil beat Italian rider Fabio Sacchi of the Saeco team in a final sprint to the finish at Marseille. Bram de Groot of the Netherlands, with the Rabobank team, was third.

"I've been chasing a stage victory on the Tour for two years now," said Piil. "I finally have it. I'm very happy." (Piil emulates team chief with win)

The race was marked by a protest that forced the main pack of riders to stop flat in their tracks after supporters of radical farmer Jose Bove ran into the road and blocked cyclists near Pourrieres, about 147 kilometers (91 miles) into the race.

Tour officials immediately ruled that the protest was "a normal race incident," meaning that the riders who lost time because of the protest would not get it back.

However, Armstrong's main rivals got caught in the protest, too, so his overall lead was not affected. In all, the main pack lost about 1 minute and 30 seconds because of the demonstration, Tour organizers said.

 
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