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  Saturday, 27 July, 2002, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Armstrong destroys rivals
Lance Armstrong won the stage by almost a minute
Armstrong is almost certain to win the Tour in Paris

Lance Armstrong destroyed the field in the penultimate stage of this year's Tour de France to stamp his class on cycling's premier race yet again.

He completed the 50km time trial from Regnie Durette to Macon in a blistering time of one hour three minutes and 50 seconds to beat Raimondas Rumsas by nearly a minute.

The American now leads by more than seven minutes overall and, barring disaster on the road to Paris, will claim his fourth straight Tour victory on Sunday.

David Millar won a stage of this year's Tour
Millar posted the fourth fastest time of the day

Laszlo Bodrogi took third place on Saturday, with Britain's time trial specialist David Millar a very respectable fourth.

Joseba Beloki remains in second place overall, despite finishing well down the field in Macon.

The Spaniard surrendered more than a minute to an inspired ride by Rumsas, but had enough in hand after the mountain stages to protect his position.

Those two riders look set to join Armstrong on the podium in Paris, after Santiago Botero's brave effort to snatch a top-three finish ran out of steam.

The Colombian surprised many by winning the first individual time trial of the Tour, but that outstanding effort only fired up Armstrong, who exacted powerful revenge on stage 19.

Armstrong was marginally behind Rumsas at the first check, but he grew in strength on a hilly course as his main rivals failed to beat the early times of Bodrogi and Millar.


In the first climb, a screw came loose - I was trying to keep control of the bike but it was very hard
Raimondas Rumsas

"After the first time trial, I was reading that Armstrong was not as good as he used to be in time trials," the Texan said afterwards.

"But you can't win them all. This was a great course."

Armstrong refused to take his overall win for granted.

"Hopefully, I have won. But you can have a puncture or a crash. I will be very careful."

Rumsas was left rueing his luck after Saturday's stage.

Bike failure

The Lithuanian, who has been a revelation in this Tour, had to fight a bike problem, as well as fatigue, and lost time to Armstrong in the closing stages.

"In the first climb, a screw came loose and it became worse and worse," said Rumsas.

"I was trying to keep control of the bike but it was very hard and very dangerous.

"For the last 40 kilometres, I lacked a little bit of power and this incident might have changed the outcome of the stage."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Simon Brotherton
"Armstrong's overall lead was never threatened"
Lotto's Robbie McEwen
"It'll be a battle for the green jersey"
All the actiion from the world's greatest bike race

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