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Saturday, 20 July, 2002, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Heras: Armstrong is unbeatable
Lance Armstrong in action on stage 12
Armstrong will stretch his lead, according to Heras

Lance Armstrong has already won a fourth Tour de France, according to his most trusted lieutenant.

Roberto Heras, who guided Armstrong to victory over the last two stages, warned that no one could now catch the Texan in this year's Tour.

He already has a two-and-a-half minute lead over his closest rival, Joseba Beloki, a lead that will only widen according to Heras.

The Spaniard told BBC Sport Online: "All the team is confident he will win now. We always had confidence in Lance but it gets stronger every day.


I thought I'd done enough to win the stage but Lance was just too strong
Roberto Heras

"Every day Lance is incredible and every day he seems to ride that much better.

"When he won stage 12, I believe he won the Tour de France. He is now unbeatable."

Armstrong has so far been unrivalled in the mountains, pulling clear of both Heras and Beloki on stages 11 and 12 to stamp his authority on the race.

After each win, the American paid tribute to Heras, hailing the Spaniard as the "real winner" of both stages.

US Postal's chief climber - he coaxed Armstrong up both La Mongie and Plateau de Beille - caused the rivals for the overall lead to crack.

Heras had, though, looked on course to be handed victory on the 12th stage by Armstrong as a reward for his efforts.

But Heras admitted he could not match his team-mate's pace.

He said: "Thursday was really good and I was feeling really good on the road but I felt even better on Friday and seemed to be going better.

"At one point I thought I'd done enough to win the stage and I thought I would be able to catch Lance. But he was just too strong."

Joseba Beloki
Beloki cracked on stage 12

Despite failing to take a mountain stage victory to date, Heras insisted he planned to win when the race moves into the Alps.

"I'd like to win a stage in the mountains and believe I am strong enough," he added.

"There are two stages which I think will really suit my style. One is Ventoux (stage 14) and the other is La Plagne (stage 16).

"Those two are so hard and will break a lot of the riders but not me hopefully."

Heras' efforts in the mountains have taken him to seventh overall in the general classification, eight minutes behind Armstrong.

He remains among the favourites to make the podium in Paris.

But he is taking nothing for granted: "I lost too much time in the time trial which has halted any real chances and there's another time trial to come."

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