Cycling: Armstrong revels in show of strength

Discovery's arch-rivals T-Mobile tested out the strategy on yesterday's gruelling 220-kilometre (136.7-mile) stage - the third longest in the 2005 Tour - when four of their riders accelerated at high speed up the lower slopes of the stage's second-last climb, the Pailheres.

For the second time in this year's Tour, the Texan was cut off from his seven remaining team-mates, but the race leader more than rose to the challenge, ultimately powering to second place on the stage behind the Austrian winner, Georg Totschnig. It almost went without saying that in the process Armstrong doubled his overall lead over the second-placed Mickael Rasmussen to nearly two minutes. "It's true I was a bit isolated, and that made it a very tactical stage and a difficult day," Armstrong admitted afterwards. "But I could find a solution."

Part of the Texan's way out was to let his rivals concentrate on eliminating each other after T-Mobile's initial drive on the Pailheres had left their leader, Jan Ullrich, out in front alongside the Italian contender Ivan Basso, of the CSC squad, and two other riders.

But instead of collaborating to try and leave the American behind, the two riders slowed and eyeballed each other from opposite sides of the road. The consequence was that Armstrong rapidly reeled in the quartet from a chasing group 100 metres behind and got back in control. Following a lethally fast descent to the foot of the climb, the scenario was virtually replayed again, as T-Mobile accelerated, resulting in Basso, Ullrich and Armstrong going out ahead. Halfway up the eight-kilometre ascent, the American then began his own series of accelerations, both to demonstrate - as if it was not obvious - who was in control and also to distance the rest of the field.

Given Totschnig's advantage of three minutes with two kilometres left to race, clinching the stage win was not an option for the Texan, but a final increase in rhythm none the less proved fatal for Ullrich. The German was forced to watch Armstrong's back wheel on the long straight slopes of one in 10 leading to the finish as the gap between himself and Armstrong widened inexorably.

Having shaken off Basso, Armstrong's advantage of 20 seconds over Ullrich at the finish was hardly vast. But after all T-Mobile's hard work, for the American to beat them anyway must have been a real blow to their collective pride. That Gerolsteiner, the other German team present in the Tour, managed to secure the stage win to boot through Totschnig was hardly much consolation, either.

Now 1min 41sec ahead of Rasmussen - and with Ullrich well out of the danger zone in fourth place at 4min 34sec, Armstrong was so good-humoured afterwards he briefly donned a T-Mobile cap and even went so far as to praise their strategy of a mass attack. "If I'd been in their situation, that's exactly what I'd have done, to try and isolate me. It's scary when that sort of thing happens," he said. "But you either fight back or run away, and I fought back."

Armstrong admitted that on today's 200-kilometre grind over six Pyrenean climbs, finishing on the exceptionally difficult Pla d'Adet ascent and unanimously rated the hardest stage of the entire Tour, it was likely "10 or 15 riders [that are no threat overall] will go clear". However, he is still savouring the possibility of "winning a non time-trial stage. I'd like to do that before the Tour is over."

With or without his team's support, today's mountain-top finish, the last in the race, could well be the Texan's favoured scenario for a last display of the raw power which has held the Tour in thrall for the last seven years.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for Cycling Weekly

Suggested Topics
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little