Text by Christian Camerota
Maybe it's the flash of a yellow jersey only eight seconds ahead; maybe it was the endless doping allegations and the questions about his legacy; maybe it was dating Kate Hudson. Whatever the case, something has Lance Armstrong inspired. Again.
So much so, in fact, that after finishing this weekend's stages through Andorre-La Vieielle, Saint-Girons, Saint-Gaudens, and Tarbes, Lance Armstrong was willing to admit to a French reporter that this year's tour would "probably not" be his last. His legs must be feeling awfully spry on those pedal strokes.
Armstrong is in third place, eight seconds off leader Rinaldo Nocentini, and is expected to battle Astana teammate Alberto Contador, currently in second place at six seconds back, for the overall title. Contador made an unexpectedly bold move during Friday's stage, pulling away from his fellow contenders and using his strength on the Pyrenean hills to gain 20 seconds on them in the last 1.2 miles, vaulting him into second place overall.
Trying to counter with a move of his own, Armstrong pulled away from the peloton in Sunday's stage, trying to catch breakaway riders Pierrick Fedrigo of France and Italy's Franco Pellizotti, who ultimately went on to win the leg by 34 seconds. However, the peloton quickly caught up to him and perhaps fortuitously so as, despite leading the peloton by five minutes coming out of a steep climb in Tourmalet Pass, Fedrigo and Pellizotti only ended up winning by a slim margin and expending a lot of energy to do so.
Sunday marked the Tour's emergence from the Pyrenees and today is an off day. The riders will begin again tomorrow on the 194.5-kilometer tenth stage, from Limoges to Issoudun. Little is expected to change on the leaderboard until Stage 15 and the beginning of the grueling Alpine climbs that often determine the winner, with even Armstrong saying "I think that's where the race is going be decided…the hardest mountain in France is on the last day, basically. You can't forget that."
- Nat Geo Expeditions