|Lance Armstrong (right) waits to retrieve his bike after one of three crashes. (Joel Sagat/AFP/Getty Images)|
Tour ‘finished’ for Armstrong
MORZINE, France — Close the book on the Lance Armstrong era at the Tour de France. He has.
The record seven-time champion wrote off his chances of victory in his 13th and last Tour, signaling the beginning of the end of one of the most celebrated and controversial careers in cycling history.
The 38-year-old Texan’s hopes for yet another title were dashed yesterday after he got caught in three crashes — one of which brought him down — and struggled to keep up during two tough climbs in Stage 8, the race’s first foray into the Alps. He and his team said his hip got banged up, keeping him from pedaling hard.
The stage was won by 25-year-old Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, and Armstrong finished nearly 12 minutes back, in 61st place.
World champion Cadel Evans of Australia took the yellow jersey by finishing 10 seconds behind Schleck, but well ahead of overnight leader Sylvain Chavanel of France.
“My Tour is finished,’’ said Armstrong, who fell to 39th overall.
“When it rains it pours I guess,’’ he said in a Twitter message. “Today was not my day, needless to say. Quite banged but gonna hang in here and enjoy my last 2 weeks.’’
The race finishes July 25 in Paris.
The stage was a poignant, if agonizing, coda to Armstrong’s unlikely bid for an eighth Tour victory in the second year of his comeback after a 3 1/2-year hiatus. In his prime, he made his mark in the mountains, pulling away from his competitors there. Today, he panted and struggled on an Alpine climb, his rivals leaving him far behind.
“During his period of domination, in the first mountain stage in high altitudes, he’d hit hard,’’ Tour director Christian Prudhomme said. “This is the first time it’s not happened like that.’’
Those years of domination were also marked by years of suspicion about doping — which he’s denied — including recent allegations by former teammate Floyd Landis.
Despite Armstrong’s strong showing in races in Luxembourg and Switzerland this spring for his new
“You can rationally say it’s the end of an epoch, the third version, after the episode of his return from cancer, and his domination,’’ Prudhomme said. “The third act has certainly taken a different turn.’’