Cycling: Armstrong shrugs off crash to maintain lead

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Lance Armstrong's first race crash in nearly a decade left the four-times Tour winner needing two stitches in his right elbow and with a deep four-inch graze to his upper right thigh.

Armstrong fell early on stage five of the Dauphiné Libéré, his last warm-up race prior to the Tour de France, on an 80kmph Alpine descent when his bike ran over a manhole cover and his brakes blocked. "I was nervous for over an hour afterwards, particularly about the brakes, and although there's a big hole in my elbow I felt good when I got back on my bike, which was the most important test for damage," said Armstrong, who is leading the race.

With less than a month to go before the Tour starts in Paris, the accident initially raised questions over Armstrong's participation, especially as his last crash was so long ago, in the 1994 Tour. But he answered the doubters in fine style. Despite having a bandage on his right arm and two huge holes in his race shorts, he chased down a late move, which included Iban Mayo and Britain's David Millar, to finish eighth and retain his overall lead of over a minute.

The US Postal rider was critical of Patrice Halgand, France's only stage winner in the Tour 2002, for trying to sneak ahead while he was on the ground. "That's completely unacceptable. When the leader of a race has fallen it's a given rule you don't attack, and that guy Patrick Halgand attacked twice," Armstrong said.

"The rest of the day was easy in comparison. Just hot and long."