Stage 20: Armstrong guarantees 7th Tour, winning final time trial

Credit: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images
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SAINT-ETIENNE, France - Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France's final time trial on Saturday, all but guaranteeing him a seventh consecutive - and last - race victory to round out a stellar career.

Armstrong beat second-placed Jan Ullrich of Germany by 23 seconds in the 20th stage to extend his already comfortable race lead - setting him up for a victory ride on the last leg into Paris on Sunday, when the 33-year-old will retire.

Unlike his previous six winning Tours, the American this year had not won an individual stage - before now.

Riding with an aerodynamic bike, helmet and suit to reduce wind drag and save seconds, Armstrong made easy work of the winding, hilly and crowd-lined 55.5-kilometer (34.5-mile) route that looped north of Saint-Etienne in central France.

Armstrong, as race leader, set out last of the 155 riders, his legs whirring, the yellow jersey on his back. He trailed Ivan Basso of Italy at the first time-check, but was leading at the second and stayed ahead from that point.

He even overtook Denmark's Mickael Rasmussen, who had started out six minutes before him but had a disastrous ride on the tricky and technical route with sharp bends, fast downhills and tiring uphillss.

Armstrong's time was 1 hour, 11 minutes and 46 seconds, for an average speed of 46.4 kilometers (28.8 miles) per hour. His three children were at the finish to see him climb onto the podium and don another race leader's yellow jersey - the 82nd of his career.

"It's a dream for me," Armstrong said of having his children there.

"He's good," said his 5-year-old son, Luke.

Ullrich's ride moved him up from fourth to third in the overall standings, displacing Rasmussen.

"I gave everything I had but it was not enough against Lance," said the 1997 Tour winner. "But I'm happy to be on the podium and to finish this Tour in good health despite the two crashes I had."

Basso placed fifth in the time trial, 1:54 behind Armstrong but good enough to keep second place on the podium in Paris and improve on his third place last year.

"It's a big day," said Armstrong's team director, Johan Bruyneel. Armstrong "controlled the situation perfectly."

"Now we can really start to party," he added.

Overall, Armstrong's lead on Basso grew to 4:40. Ullrich is 6:21 behind. Rasmussen had been in third place at the start of the stage, but crashed negotiating a roundabout, crashed again into a ditch and had repeated mechanical problems, changing bikes several times.

He finished 77th, 7:47 behind Armstrong. He dropped to 7th place overall, 11:33 behind Armstrong. He had started just 3:46 back and with a lead of 2:12 over Ullrich.

Ullrich's teammate, Alexandre Vinokourov, placed third in the time trial, 1:16 behind Armstrong. American Bobby Julich was fourth, 1:33 behind.

Friedemann Vogel/Bongarts/Getty Images Lance Armstrong leaves the start of a Tour de France Time Trial for the last time in his career.

Top 10 results, Stage 20: Saint-Etienne - Saint-Etienne (55km individual time trial)
1. Lance Armstrong (USA/DIS) 1h11min 46sec
2. Jan Ullrich (GER/MOB) at 0:23
3. Alexander Vinokourov (KAZ/MOB) 1:16
4. Bobby Julich (USA/CSC) 1:33
5. Ivan Basso (ITA/CSC) 1:54
6. Floyd Landis (USA/PHO) 2:02
7. Cadel Evans (AUS/DAV) 2:06
8. George Hincapie (USA/DIS) 2:25
9. Francisco Mancebo (SPA/BAL) 2:51
10. Vladimir Karpets (RUS/BAL) 3:05

Stage 20: Complete results

Top 10, Overall standings 1. Lance Armstrong (USA/DIS) 82h34min 05sec
2. Ivan Basso (ITA/CSC) at 4:40
3. Jan Ullrich (GER/MOB) 6:21
4. Francisco Mancebo (SPA/BAL) 9:59
5. Levi Leipheimer (USA/GRL) 11:25
6. Alexander Vinokourov (KAZ/MOB) 11:27
7. Michael Rasmussen (DEN/RAB) 11:33
8. Cadel Evans (AUS/DAV) 11:55
9. Floyd Landis (USA/PHO) 12:44
10. Oscar Pereiro (SPA/PHO) 16:04

Stage 20: Complete overall standings

Stage 20: Category standings


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