Armstrong 'happy' to lose yellow jersey as Voigt takes over

Armstrong claimed that losing the lead to the German was "a strategic decision". "I felt today might be the day we gave the jersey away or the jersey was taken away and sure enough it was," he said. "It was not a priority to keep it, but it's always a special jersey to have on your back. When you cross the line and you don't go to the podium to put it on, you're a little sad. But it's a long race and now it's the last 10 days which matter."

Rasmussen pulled off one of the most remarkable exploits in recent Tour history, forging his way to a solo win after spending 100 miles ahead of the field. The Dane took a huge gamble of the sort that rarely pays off these days by attacking almost as soon as the race began in Gerardmer, deep in the Vosges mountain range of eastern France.

Crossing all six classified climbs which followed in first place, Rasmussen shook off the one rider willing to accompany him in such a reckless act, the Reading-born Italian Dario Cioni, even before the main climb of the day, the 22-kilometre (14 miles) Ballon d'Alsace. "My initial idea was to strengthen my hold on the mountains jersey, but I had a four-minute advantage after the Ballon, so I knew I could stay away alone to the finish," Rasmussen said.

Voigt, one of his two closest pursuers, took over the yellow jersey but was realistic enough to recognise that his time in the limelight will be limited. "High mountain stages like in the Alps [starting tomorrow] are just not my thing," he said.

They are Armstrong's however, and the six-time Tour winner was more optimistic at the end of yesterday's stage than 24 hours previously, when he had been completely isolated from his Discovery Channel team on the Tour's first major climb.

On the second-category climb of the Col de la Schlucht, Alexandre Vinokourov pulverised the Texan's squad with six attacks, and his T-Mobile team-mate Andreas Klöden rubbed salt into the wound by tearing off close to the summit to gain 27 seconds of advantage on Armstrong, who described his day as "shitty".

His team were back on-message yesterday, flanking their leader faultlessly over the Ballon d'Alsace at the front of the main bunch. But if one American was looking back in control of affairs, for another, the Tour's first yellow jersey wearer David Zabriskie, a second day of hard climbing proved too much. Injured in last week's team time-trial in Blois, Zabriskie was nearly an hour adrift on Saturday's stage and yesterday he quit after 10km.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for 'Cycling Weekly'

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