Italian Takes Tour's La Mongie Stage

Monday, July 12th 2004, 6:19 am
By: News On 6

LA MONGIE, France (AP) _ Lance Armstrong finished second Friday in the Tour de France's first stage in the Pyrenees mountains, leaving main rival Jan Ullrich struggling behind.

Armstrong, bidding for a record sixth straight Tour title, trailed only Italy's Ivan Basso, the winner of the 12th stage. The Texan advanced the from sixth to second in the overall standings.

He was just behind Basso on the ascent to the La Mongie ski station. Ullrich and another Armstrong rival, Tyler Hamilton, were left way back on the punishing climb.

Armstrong's merciless performance on the ascent showed he will be hard to beat.

Overall, Armstrong is 5 minutes, 24 seconds behind French champion Thomas Voeckler. Voeckler was among those who had trouble Friday but limited the damage and held the yellow jersey.

Voeckler had been leading Armstrong by more than nine minutes before the grueling stage. Basso and Armstrong finished in the same time.