Lance Armstrong has made his move in the Tour’s twelfth stage, putting over two minutes on arch-rival Jan Ullrich and coming in on the wheel of stage winner Ivan Basso (CSC).
After battling through the rain and numerous escape attempts on the 197.5km from Castelsarrasin to La Mongie, the peloton broke up on the descent of the Aspin, chasing Rasmussen, Virenque and Etxbarria. At 18.5km to go Ullrich’s chasing group (including Casar, Voeckler, Kloden, Mayo, Moreau and Mercado) was eleven seconds up on Armstrong’s group, but it was a short-lived gap as US Postal showed the superior teamwork and the peloton re-grouped with the main contenders.
That unity was also to prove relatively short-lived as team Phonak began to struggle moving into the last 10km. With 7km to go, Hamilton dropped back and then Ullrich showed signs of flagging and a couple of kilometres later Armstrong and his, now small, group had put forty seconds on Ullrich.
Then, with around thee kilometres to go, Armstrong went in for the kill, and only Ivan Basso was up to moving with him. Neck-to-neck they went for the line over the closing kilometres, with every bit of effort helping Armstrong put time over his rivals.
Voeckler put in the work to come in at four minutes, so hangs on to the yellow jersey for one more day, Armstrong though, moves into second position on the GC, 05:24 behind the Frenchman and three and a half minutes ahead of Ullrich.
It certainly aint over yet, but after this first mountain stage Ullrich, Hamilton et.al have a lot of catching up to do.