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Saturday, July 24, 1999 Published at 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK

Armstrong closes in

Lance Armstrong: "I'm very very tired ... Anything is still possible"

Simon Brotherton: "Armstrong showed he's the class performer in the field"
Lance Armstrong extended his Tour de France lead to seven minutes and 37 seconds after another brilliant time trial victory on Saturday.

The US Postal rider, already a comfortable 6min 15sec ahead of Spaniard Fernando Escartin of Kelme before the start of the stage, outpaced Swiss star Alex Zulle of Banesto, third in the overall standings, by just 9sec as he crossed the line in 1hr 08min 17sec.

Le Tour de France
Zulle timed 1:08.26 with Armstrong's teammate Tyler Hamilton third 1min 34sec off the pace.

Armstrong, notching up his fourth stage win, set a cracking pace throughout as his average speed just cleared 50 kph.

[ image: Alex Zulle: Nine seconds behind]
Alex Zulle: Nine seconds behind
The 27-year-old won the prologue at Puy-du-Fou, the time-trial eighth stage at Metz and the opening mountain stage at Sestrieres.

Despite the victory Armstrong remained cautious, however. "I'm very very tired, kaput," he said. "Anything is still possible."

Escartin could only place 22nd on the day, 4min behind Armstrong, and slid back behind Zulle to third overall 26sec adrift.

With Escartin falling further behind Armstrong now has a healthy lead over Zulle prior to Sunday's 143.5km final stage, which traditionally is a procession, from Arpajon to Paris.

Angel Casero of Spain came in fourth in the stage 1min 37sec down on Armstrong while time-trial world champion Abraham Olano of Spain could only manage sixth.

Controversial Frenchman Richard Virenque, King of the Mountains for the fifth time, slipped back from fifth to eighth overall after a disappointing run.

Britain's Chris Boardman failed to scale the heights in his favoured discipline, and could only manage 15th place.

Stage result
[ image:  ]

  • 1. Lance Armstrong (USA/USP), 57km in 1hr 08min 17sec (average: 50.085 kph)
  • 2. Alex Zulle (Swi/BAN) at 00:09.
  • 3. Tyler Hamilton (USA/USP) 01:35.
  • 4. Angel Casero (Spa/VIT) 01:37.
  • 5. Rik Verbrugghe (Bel/LOT) 02:03.
  • 6. Abraham Olano (Spa/ONC) 02:18.
  • 7. Wladimir Belli (Ita/FES) 02:23.
  • 8. Alvaro Gonzalez Galdeano (Spa/VIT) 02:28.
  • 9. Jens Voigt (Ger/C.A) 02:45.
  • 10. Stuart O'Grady (Aus/C.A) 02:47.
  • 11. Andrea Peron (Ita/ONC) 02:53.
  • 12. Santos Gonzalez (Spa/ONC) 03:04.
  • 13. Gilles Maignan (Fra/CSO) 03:04.
  • 14. Laurent Brochard (Fra/FES) 03:04.
  • 15. Chris Boardman (Gbr/C.A) 03:29.
  • 16. Christian Vandevelde (USA/USP) 03:41.
  • 17. Daniele Nardello (Ita/MAP) 03:43.
  • 18. Stephane Heulot (Fra/FDJ) 03:51.
  • 19. Erik Dekker (Ned/RAB) 03:52.
  • 20. Fabian Jeker (Swi/FES) 03:55.

    General classification

  • 1. Lance Armstrong (USA/USP) 87hr 54min 37sec
  • 2. Alex Zulle (Swi/BAN) at 07:37.
  • 3. Fernando Escartin (Spa/KEL) 10:26.
  • 4. Laurent Dufaux (Swi/SAE) 14:43.
  • 5. Angel Casero (Spa/VIT) 15:11.
  • 6. Abraham Olano (Spa/ONC) 16:47.
  • 7. Daniele Nardello (Ita/MAP) 17:02.
  • 8. Richard Virenque (Fra/PLT) 17:28.
  • 9. Wladimir Belli (Ita/FES) 17:37.
  • 10. Andrea Peron (Ita/ONC) 23:10.
  • 11. Kurt Van de Wouwer (Bel/LOT) 23:32.
  • 12. David Etxebarria (Spa/ONC) 26:41.
  • 13. Tyler Hamilton (USA/USP) 26:59.
  • 14. Stephane Heulot (Fra/FDJ) 27:58.
  • 15. Roland Meier (Swi/COF) 28:44.
  • 16. Benoit Salmon (Fra/CSO) 28:59.
  • 17. Alberto Elli (Ita/TEL) 33:39.
  • 18. Paolo Lanfranchi (Ita/MAP) 34:14.
  • 19. Carlos Contreras (Col/KEL) 34:33.
  • 20. Georg Totschnig (Aut/TEL) 37:10.

    Next stage
    [ image:  ]

    Sunday sees the riders travel by train to Paris before a ride from just outside the city into the famous Champs Elysees.

    The riders will sip champagne and joke as they gently tour into city centre, but as soon as they see the Eiffel Tower the speed will rocket before one last sprint to the line.

    The leader is unlikely to come under any pressure, but his team-mates will be nervous of punctures on the closing circuit.

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