Lance Armstrong has won today’s 15th stage of the Tour de France and reclaimed the yellow jersey from French champion Voeckler.
The 180.5km from Valréas to Villard-de-Lans may not have been held up as the most difficult of stages, but it didn’t lack excitement. There were numerous break attempts, perhaps the most dramatic moment being when Ullrich’s struck out alone from the peloton to catch the earlier breakaways including Virenque, O’Grady, Rasmussen, Brochard, Santos Gonzalez and Vande Velde. Ullrich was reeling them in one by one up the Col de l’Echarasson, collecting his own group and putting time over the peloton. After his hard work on the ascent Ullrich summitted the col 1:20 ahead of Armstrong’s main group, and it looked as though he might be able to take it all the way.
But Ullrich’s attempts to catch leaders Virenque and Rasmussen, working in a trio with Brochard and Santos Gonzales, were not to pay off, and about half-an-hour later Armstrong’s group had closed the gap and caught him with 27km of the stage to race.
Not too long after that the race leaders were also caught and a leading group of Armstrong, Ullrich, Virenque, Leipheimer, Azevedo, Kloden, Sastre and Basso battled up the final 2.5km of the 10km, 6 percent Col de Chalimont. The race was still wide open.
With a kilometre to go on the uphill climax the lead group was down to Kloden, Basso, Ullrich, Basso, Leipheimer and Armstrong, in that order. But when Basso made his move, Armstrong went with him, dropping the other three and taking their contest right to the line. Armstrong won out and took the stage, and with Voeckler languishing over eight minutes back, the yellow jersey.