Lance Armstrong Faces a Crucial Day in the Alps (UPDATE: Lance Is Cooked)

With a mountain-top finish in the Alps this morning, Lance Armstrong has an opportunity to make up some time he lost to his main rival, Alberto Contador. Or, he can simply stick with Contador and look for a later opportunity for attack.

But one thing is certain: Armstrong can't afford to lose more time to Contador today. And if he does, his chance to win his final Tour de France is probably over.

Here, again, are the riders to watch, and the times separating them:

Cadel Evans Andy Schleck (22 seconds behind Evans) Alberto Contador (1:01m) Brad Wiggins (1:10m) Lance Armstrong (1:51m)

Expect these top contenders to stay close together until the day's final climb to Morzine-Avoriaz, when all hell should break loose.

Cyclingnews.com reports that Armstrong has been suffering in the high heat of this week's stages, and revealed yesterday that he's dealing with a painful saddle sore.

We were concerned that Armstrong had so few teammates with him on yesterday's final climb on a day that proved surprisingly difficult. But Velonews reports that the lack of Lance's teammates may have been a strategic decision by team director Johan Bruyneel to save strength for today's tougher stage.

We'll be back with further updates.

Update 1: Armstrong crashes at a most inopportune time, just before the first big climb of the day. It's the kind of thing he always seemed to avoid during his years of dominating the race. So far, he seems OK, with just some lost skin. But a bad omen.

Update 2: Seeing Lance struggle on the Col de la Ramaz is like a punch to the gut. He can make up some time on the other side, but with another big category 1 climb at the finish, it's hard to see him keeping up.

Update 3: Ugh. Having flashbacks to the early 1990s, when the faded great American champion can do nothing against the young Spanish superstar. This is beyond depressing.

Update 4: Schleck wins the stage, Evans is in yellow. And Contador looks a little more beatable. But the headline of the day, of course, is that Armstrong is done for the overall.


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