Live blogging the Tour: Armstrong suffers agonising near miss
Lance Armstrong was agonisingly close to taking the yellow jersey for first time since his last Tour de France triumph in 2005.
Here’s how Julien Pretot, a member of our reporting team on the Tour, saw the 39-km team time trial in Montpellier as it happened.
1500. Still in the car following Rabobank team. Menchov crashed in turn number two. Team mates waited for him. Astana gunning for yellow jersey thru Armstrong — starting last.
1503. Very tricky course, lots of twists and turns in and around sunbathed Montpellier. Time is taken on the fifth rider to cross the line. Team cohesion obviously key to a good performance today.
1509. Four teams are clearly looking for a stage win today: Astana with Armstrong and Contador, Columbia with Tony Martin, Cancellara’s Saxo Bank and David Millar and Bradley Wiggins’s Garmin-Slipstream team.
1520. A race doctor is behind Rabobank – in case Menchov would need medical assistance after his crash, although the Dutch team has been riding very strong over the last 10 km.
1525. First intermediate times In Grabels: 1.Caisse d’epargne 12min35s, 2.Katusha +9s, 3.Rabobank +53s.
1526. CRASH – Four riders from the Bouygues Telecom tram crash early in the course. Definitely a very tricky one.
1527. Dutchman Stef Clement is dropped by his Rabobank team mates.
1532. Rabobank’s usual strong men on flat roads are having a hard time: Joost Posthuma also dropped.
1540. CRASH – A Silence Lotto rider crashes when his front wheel touches the rear wheel of a team mate. The whole team loses ground in the incident. Bad news for Cadel Evans, one of the Tour favourites.
1558. 1.Katusha, 47:52. 2.Caisse d’Epargne +6s. 3.Rabobank +58s.
1616. Team Katusha still leading provisional standings after 10 teams crossed the line.
1617. Cadel Evans’s Silence Lotto team finished 1:06 off the pace – Bad news for the Australian.
1619. Bradley Wiggins and David Millar’s Garmin team to start in four minutes. Armstrong and Contador starting at 16:43.
1624. Garmin have started, looking for stage win. No crash reported yet…
1627. Liquigas, with underdogs Roman Kreuziger and Vicenzo Nibali, take the lead at intermediate point #2. Clean ride so far for the Italian team.
1640. Four Garmin riders have dropped! Still a long way to go, it will be extremely hard for Jonathan Vaughters’s team.
1643. Lance Armstrong and his Astana team have started. Alberto Contador is wearing the Spanish time trial champion jersey.
1646. Smooth ride for Astana for now. They perfectly managed the turn where Giro winner Menchov and world champion Ballan crashed.
1649. Liquigas take the lead in provisional standings in 47:27.
1650. Garmin, although they are down to five men, clock the best provisional best at second intermediate point. Outstanding.
1652. Bike used by Team Columbia is worth 15,000 euros. The most expensive in the peloton.
1656. Astana are 7 seconds off the pace at intermediate point #1. Good performance
1657. Gregory Rast is the first Astana rider to drop out of the team.
1659. Armstrong now 28 seconds from the yellow jersey at intermediate #1 as Astana lead Cancellara’s Saxo Bank by 12 seconds after 10 km.
1701. Wow. Garmin smashing the field, opening a 31-second gap at top of intermediate #3 standings.
1707. Astana down to 7 men as Dmitriy Murrayev drops out.
1708. Garmin take the lead in 46:47.
1709. Astana on fire! They lead Garmin by 23 second at intermediate #2.
1720. Armstrong now set to take the yellow jersey as Astana are powering through the course. Looks like Saxo Bank will lose more than 40s.
1729. Huge media scrum at the Astana bus…
1733. And Lance just misses out! It’s incredibly close… Looks like Cancellara and Armstrong are dead level on the GC. So Cancellara keeps the yellow jersey.
PHOTO: Armstrong laughs as he cycles during the third stage of the 96th Tour de France between Marseille and La Grande-Motte July 6, 2009. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel