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Armstrong can relax over mountains

July 22, 2004 12:12 IST

Lance Armstrong's overall lead of three minutes and 48 seconds over Ivan Basso means that the five-times Tour de France champion can relax on Thursday's 204.5-km 17th stage.

Lance ArmstrongThe American has won three of the four mountain stages held and finished second in the other but with a record sixth Tour victory now close at hand, he is expected to let others battle it out for a podium place or a secondary classification.

Most of the 157 riders left in the Tour would have been relieved to see the end of the Alpe d'Huez time trial on Wednesday but they still face a demanding mountain stage between Bourg d'Oisans and Le Grand Bornand.

With five climbs, including the classic Madeleine pass, King of the Mountains leader Richard Virenque will be looking for points to secure a record seventh polka-dot jersey.

T-Mobile team mates Andreas Kloeden and Jan Ullrich, placed third and fourth in the overall standings, could also join forces to try to topple Basso from second place.

The Tour heads back to the valley on Friday with Saturday's 55-km time trial in Besancon now likely to be no more than a lap of honour for Armstrong.

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