Texan drops back to fourth

LE GRAND-BORNAND, France --- Lance Armstrong couldn't stay in the front during the final Alpine stage in the Tour de France, so he played faithful teammate for Alberto Contador instead.


When all was said and done in Wednesday's Stage 17, the 26-year-old Spaniard further cemented his grip on the yellow jersey and Armstrong's ambitions for a podium spot were dealt a setback.

Frank Schleck and his younger brother Andy bumped the Texan down to fourth place from second as they broke away with Contador at the end of the 105-mile stage.

The elder Schleck won the stage.

Contador leads his closest challenger -- Andy Schleck -- by 2 minutes, 26 seconds, and seemingly only a major mishap could stop him from taking home the yellow shirt when the race ends Sunday.

Armstrong's challenge for a spot on the podium on the Champs-Elysees rides on the question: Can he regain ground in the time-trial today, and then hold on Saturday on the dreaded Mont Ventoux?

The Texan says a second-place finish is still within his reach.

"Yes, it's still my goal, I think it's possible," Armstrong said. "I just need to work hard on the time-trial tomorrow... We still have two big days."

Frank Schleck is 3:25 behind Contador. Armstrong, who crossed the finish 2:18 after the leading trio, now trails by 3:55 -- ending any hope that he will win the Tour, barring a miracle.

17th stage

WINNER: Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, ahead of race leader Alberto Contador and brother Andy Schleck. They broke away in the Col de la Colombiere after a move from Contador.

YELLOW JERSEY: Contador, the 2007 winner, now leads Andy Schleck by 2 minutes and 26 seconds. Frank Schleck is in third place, 3 minutes and 25 seconds behind. Lance Armstrong dropped to fourth overall, 3:55 behind his Astana teammate.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Getting lots of question why AC attacked and dropped (teammate Andreas) Kloeden. I still haven't figured it out either. Oh well" -- Armstrong on his Twitter feed, about Contador's move in Wednesday's final ascent.

NEXT STAGE: Today's stage is a 25.2-mile individual time-trial around the Annecy Lake. The course is mainly flat but features a slight uphill 7.5 miles away from the finish.


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