It’s just another day in which it wasn’t to be for Lance Armstrong. You wouldn’t expect anything less from this Tour for the Texan.
Pierrick Fedrigo of Bbox-Bouygues Telecom took the victory in Stage 16 into Pau from a breakaway group of eight men that caught lone leader Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) with under a kilometer to go. The field launched a bunch sprint, and Fedrigo had the legs to scoot up the right side of the road past sixth-placed Armstrong.
If it was any Tour other than this one, a hellish three weeks that has left Lance on the tarmac more than on the podium, Stage 16 would have set up to be a glorious stage for Armstrong to bow out of the sport with one final victory. Instead, it once again exposed the truth that the Lance of old is a thing of the past.
Armstrong played it coy all day, putting in work to the chase of Barredo but spending most of his time cloaked at the back of the group. He even had the advantage of a teammate in the group, with fellow American Chris Horner at the front to aid in the catch of Barredo and lead out the sprint. As they entered the last kilometer, he was still seventh wheel. For Lance in top form, it would have been prime pouncing position. For 2010 Lance, it was saving energy for one cast of the dice, one that came up 200 meters short.Lance left the sprint late, launching a valiant effort with about 300 meters to go, and briefly looked like he just might have the power left in those 38-year-old legs to take home the day’s honors. But Armstrong, who can probably count the number of times he’s had to launch a field sprint over the last decade and change on one hand, just didn’t have enough and sat up around 100 meters from the line, settling for sixth.
The day wasn’t a total disappointment for Lance and company. He showed a lot of smarts by catching onto the early move, saying away through some long, tough climbs, and for not ambling into the finish of his career without an honest effort at a stage win. Lance also helped Horner gain time on his GC rivals, moving him from 21st place into the top 12, while also preserving RadioShack’s lead in the team competition.
The post-race Armstrong told the story of some modicum of individual disappointment. An exhausted Lance, almost with a quiet resignation that his last chance at victory in his long storied career had passed, had little to offer, admitting, “Lance Armstrong is over in about four of five days.”
“It took a lot out of me,” he told Versus. “I had no sprint at the end. I tried…I tried to catch his [Fedrigo’s] wheel. Just not quick enough.”
And the brightest part of the day for Lance?
“I wasn’t the oldest guy in the breakaway.”