Four-time defending Tour de France cycling champion Lance Armstrong of the United States and 1997 winner Jan Ullrich of Germany are set for a showdown Saturday in the next to last stage of this year's Tour. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer is in Nantes, France, where the individual time trial will be decided.
2003 Tour front-runner Lance Armstrong saw his lead over Jan Ullrich cut by two seconds Friday because of time bonuses in an intermediate sprint en route from Bordeaux to Saint-Maixent-L'Ecole.
The sprint was held 50 kilometers into the 203-kilometer mostly-flat stage and was won by Australian Robbie McEwen. Ullrich was second and Armstrong third. As a result, Ullrich earned a four-second time bonus while Armstrong took two seconds. Thus, Armstrong's overall lead ahead of the German decreased from 67 seconds to 65 seconds.
Friday's stage winner was Pablo Lastras of Spain, who edged Carlos Da Cruz of France. Armstrong and Ullrich were content save energy after the intermediate sprint and stayed with the peloton - or main pack - which finished about 24 minutes behind a small lead group.
While Ullrich beat Armstrong in the previous individual time trial a week ago by a decisive 96 seconds, the American champion has not lost the final Tour de France time trial since 1999 and says he has no intention of doing so this year.