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CYCLING

Contador extends his Tour de France lead

Armstrong falls to fourth place. Frank Schleck of Luxembourg win's today's stage.

July 23, 2009|Associated Press

Alberto Contador closed in on the overall victory at the Tour de France on Wednesday after finishing second behind Frank Schleck in the 17th stage as the race left the Alps.

Lance Armstrong trailed by more than two minutes and fell from second to fourth place overall in the 105-mile ride from Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Le Grand-Bornand -- seen by many as the toughest stage this year.

The stage likely ended any chance Armstrong had of overtaking his Astana teammate, and the seven-time champion will now have to fight for a place on the podium.

Contador held on to the yellow jersey by staying with Schleck of Luxembourg and his younger brother Andy in a three-man breakaway at the end of the stage. Andy Schleck finished third while Armstrong was fifth, 2 minutes 18 seconds back.

The Schleck brothers both leapfrogged Armstrong in the overall standings, with Andy 2:26 behind Contador in second place and Frank 3:25 behind in third. Armstrong trails Contador by 3:55.

The Schlecks were the main attackers against Contador during the final two climbs in the stage, and at times took turns relaying each other or trying to shake the Spaniard.

Andreas Kloeden, an Astana teammate of Contador and Armstrong who is also strong in time trials, placed sixth in the stage -- 2:27 back -- and is fifth overall, 4:44 off the lead.

Armstrong and Kloeden are stronger time-trial riders than the Schlecks and could make up ground in today's 25.2-mile race in Annecy.

Quote of the day: "We bet everything -- make or break it. We deserved to win . . . we attacked one after another. We countered well -- it was a good tactic." -- Frank Schleck, on the effort by him and his brother on Wednesday's stage.

*--* STAGE 17 RESULTS 1. Frank Schleck, Luxembourg 4:53:54 2. Alberto Contador, Spain same time 3. Andy Schleck, Luxembourg same time 4. Vincenzo Nibali, Italy 2:18 behind 5. Lance Armstrong, United States same time *--*

*--* OVERALL STANDINGS 1. Alberto Contador, Spain 72:27:09 2. Andy Schleck, Luxembourg 2:26 behind 3. Frank Schleck, Luxembourg 3:25 behind 4. Lance Armstrong, U.S. 3:55 behind 5. Andreas Kloeden, Germany 4:44 behind *--*

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

TODAY'S STAGE 18

The route: The riders face a 25.2-mile individual time trial around Lake Annecy. The course is mainly flat but features a slight uphill 7.5 miles from the finish.

Destination Annecy: This capital of the Haute-Savoie region in southeastern France is at the northern tip of Lake Annecy. Focused on cutting-edge technologies, especially those involved in animated film, Annecy prides itself on its International Animated Film Festival, held every June, in which more than 60 countries are represented and about 500 films are entered. Besides being part of the Tour's route this year, Annecy has high hopes of becoming the host for the 2018 Winter Olympics. In March, it was selected as France's candidate to host the Olympics and Paralympics. Annecy has 70% of the necessary Olympic sporting infrastructure in place. In July 2010, the International Olympic Committee will announce the names of the finalists.

-- Lauren Goldman

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