Lance Armstrong Facing Hecklers and a Doubting Press
As the Tour de France settles into a more normal first-week routine of long breakaway attempts and nervy sprint finishes, the cycling press has time to wonder: did a flat tire on Tuesday's chaotic cobblestoned stage doom Lance Armstrong's chance to win his final Tour?
He lies in 18th place overall, which is meaningless, but more importantly he's given up 50 seconds to his main rival, Alberto Contador, before the high mountain sections have even begun. That gives Contador a huge advantage that some already see as too much to overcome.
The AP's Jerome Pugmire reports that Armstrong had a relatively smooth day in yesterday's stage to Reims, but was then confronted by a heckler who has showed up at other races to yell "cheat" and "doper" at him.
More geezers: 36-year-old Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi not only won his second stage of this Tour with his win in Reims, but Les Clarke at Cyclingnews.com points out that 4 of the 5 top finishers were all at least 33 years old. It's been a veterans' parade so far this year.
British newspapers, meanwhile, are giving Isle of Man sprinter Mark Cavendish a hard time about his lackluster results so far. Yesterday's stage seemed tailor-made for him, and he was in a good position to win before Petacchi beat him to the line. And Cavendish is now well behind Thor Hushovd for the points leader green jersey.
Cavendish will have a chance to redeem himself today in another flat stage that should produce a mass sprint finish. Armstrong, meanwhile, just has to remain patient until he has an opportunity in the mountains to take back the time he lost to Contador.
Stage 4 results: 1. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita), 2. Julian Dean (NZl), 3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor), 4. Robbie McEwen (Aus), 5. Robert Hunter (RSA)
Overall standings: 1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi), 2. Geraint Thomas (GBr), 3. Cadel Evans (Aus), 4. Ryder Hesjedal (Can), 5. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra)
The favorites, trailing Cadel Evans: Andy Schleck (22 seconds), Alberto Contador (1:01m), Brad Wiggins (1:10m), Lance Armstrong (1:51m)
Yellow jersey (overall leader): Fabian Cancellara (Swi)
Green jersey (points leader): Thor Hushovd (Nor)
Polka dot jersey (mountains): Jérôme Pineau (Fra)
White jersey (best young rider): Geraint Thomas (GBr)