Only two stages remain in the grueling three-week-long Tour de France cycling race, and American Lance Armstrong remains the leader. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer reports Nantes, France, where Saturday's individual time trial will be decided.
German Jan Ullrich, the 1997 Tour de France champion, appears to be the only one with a chance of stopping Lance Armstrong's quest for a record-tying fifth straight victory in cycling's premier event.
And if he is to do it, it will happen in Saturday's 49-kilometer individual time trial from the seaside resort of Pornic to here in Nantes.
Time trials are races against the clock, with the cyclists riding alone in staggered starts, in inverse order of the standings. Armstrong has a 65-second lead over Ullrich after the German picked up two bonus seconds on the American during an intermediate sprint in Friday's 203-kilometer stage, won by Pablo Lastras of Spain.
Never before has Armstrong been locked in such a tight battle for the Tour de France title since he first won in 1999. Ullrich was runner-up to Armstrong in both 2000 and 2001, and this is his best chance to beat him.
The German is hoping for a repeat of his convincing defeat of the American in the time trial eight days ago. He knocked a whooping 96 seconds off Armstrong's overall lead, which set the stage for a close and tense final week in the nearly 3,500 kilometer Tour. Armstrong, however, was dehydrated on that day because of a heat wave. 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.