Eurosport - Tue, 20 Jul 16:18:00 2010
Lance Armstrong failed in a brave bid to win a stage in his final Tour de France as Pierrick Fedrigo won stage 16 in Pau.
The seven-times champion was part of a nine-man break that contested the sprint finish at the end of the Queen stage in the Pyrenees which featured four epic climbs on the 189.5km route from Bagneres de Luchon.
But the American could not match the turn of pace of the Bbox Bouygues rider who secured France's sixth stage win in this year's race.
It was a case of déjà vu for Fedrigo as he won the Pyrenees stage to Tarbes last year on a route, like today, that also crossed the famous ascents of the Col d'Aspin and the Col de Tourmalet.
The 31-year-old burst away in the final metres to beat compatriot Sandy Casar (FDJ) and Spain's Ruben Plaza (Caisse d'Epargne) to the line after a brave solo bid by Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) was thwarted. The Spaniard attacked his fellow escapees at the foot of the descent of the Col d'Aubisque with 40km remaining but was caught as he passed under the Flamme Rouge.
Armstrong came home in sixth.
There were no changes in the top 10 on the overall standings with Alberto Contador, who expressed his regret at snatching the yellow jersey after benefiting from rival Andy Schleck's mechanical problem on the 15th stage, retaining his eight second lead over the Luxembourg rider going into the rest day.
Armstrong was at the centre of the action right from the outset. He and Bradley Wiggins were part of an escape group that formed on the Peyresourde, the 11km category one climb that started the stage.
They held a slender lead at the summit and with Alexandre Vinokourov, Ryder Hesjedal, Roman Kreuziger and Carlos Sastre - all in the top 13 in the overall standings - also in the escape, Omega Pharma-Lotto made a committed chase on the Col d'Aspin that followed shortly after to protect the GC position of fifth placed Jurgen Van Den Broeck.
Samuel Sanchez and Robert Gesink, third and sixth on GC, lost contact with the group on the 12.3km category one climb but after 55km of frantic racing, all the escapees except Casar were caught shortly before the ascent of the Tourmalet.
But Armstrong was not to be denied and he counter-attacked at the foot of the 17.1km hors category climb and swiftly joined Casar, winner of stage nine.
His Radioshack team-mate Chris Horner plus Fedrigo, Plaza, Barredo, Jurgen van de Walle (Quick Step), Christophe Moreau (Caisse d'Epargne) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) bridged the gap and with none of the men up the road a threat to the top placed riders on GC, the pace dropped considerably in the main bunch.
The leaders reached the bottom of the Col d'Aubisque with an advantage of six minutes and they extended their advantage on the mammoth 29.2km hors category climb with veteran Moreau crossing first to claim the souvenir Jacques Goddet and put pressure on polka dot jersey holder Anthony Charteau.
Barredo, the winner of Clasica San Sebastian last August, attacked at the foot of the descent and opened up a 40 second lead as he attempted to time trial home alone to record a third successive Spanish win in Gap.
But the pursuers timed their chase to perfection and although Armstrong was foiled in his attempt to become the second oldest stage winner in Tour history, France had plenty of reasons to cheer as they celebrated three successive stage wins for the first time since 1994.
Plaza was the best placed on GC of the escapees in 20th at 14:47 and looked on course to move into the top 10 with the breakaway holding a nine minute lead on the Aubisque but Thor Hushovd led the peloton over the line, 6:45 back, which means he reclaimed the green jersey and that the top 10 on GC is unchanged going into Thursday's final stage in the Pyrenees and a potentially decisive showdown at the top of the Tourmalet.