Cycling: Armstrong happy with Tour test run

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The Independent Online

For those keen to read the runes concerning Lance Armstrong's bid to win a seventh and final Tour de France, his most important pre-July test run of 2005 - a time-trial in the Dauphiné Libéré stage race - has produced a decidedly illegible result.

Armstrong finished third in the 47 kilometre event yesterday, behind Colombia's Santiago Botero by a margin of 26 seconds. Second, just one second behind Botero, was the Californian Levi Leipheimer, who has moved into the overall lead in the eight-day race.

For the American and his Discovery Channel team, third represents exactly the kind of ambiguous result that they could have done without - particularly in what his team manager Johan Bruyneel had described beforehand as "the most significant Tour de France test of the year".

Armstrong himself had rated the stage as "the first real challenge of the year" but while he delivered a competent performance, he was by no means elated afterwards.

"It was very tough throughout," he said, "with a lot of cross-winds, but I can see that I've made progress since [the Tour of] Georgia in late April. It's a good result as regards the Tour de France, too."

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for Cycling Weekly