Text by Christian Camerota
Far from the fanfare of years past, Lance Armstrong is not even considered the leader of his Astana team in this Tour De France. But the leaderboard would tell you otherwise.
Though he has contended his motivation for riding this time around is largely charitable in nature, there's no avoiding that if Lance Armstrong is riding in a race, he's always going to be a favorite. Today's results appear to show Armstrong arriving at that conclusion, as well, just as he arrived at La Grande-Motte. About 30 kilometers from the third stage finish, Team Columbia took advantage of strong crosswinds and split the peloton with a late surge. Armstrong was paying attention and managed to stay with the lead pack, ultimately resulting in a rise into third place in the overall standings, just 40 seconds behind Swiss leader Fabian Cancellara of the Saxo Bank team.
Armstrong's finish ahead of his teammate and supposed team captain Alberto Contador has caused some to wonder who the real captain of the team is and posit that perhaps Armstrong's innate desire to win may cause rifts amongst Astana, especially if Contador continues to fall behind. Monday's results, however, appear to have been caused more by bad timing and a lapse in judgment on Contador's part than anything else, as he failed to stay with Team Columbia as they broke away and was subsequently stuck in the second, lagging half of the peloton.
"There are no troubles at all in our team," said Astana sports director Alain Gallopin. "It's even the contrary."
Despite Gallopin's comments, one has to wonder how content Armstrong will be playing second fiddle to Contador's lead, especially if he is feeling strong as the race continues and is within easy reach of the yellow jersey. His comments after Monday's race seem to allude to this possibility. When asked about his chances of donning the famous canary-colored shirt, Armstrong responded, "never say never."
Briton Mark Cavendish won the 122 mile third stage, slightly edging out Thor Hushovd of Norway and Cyril Lemoine of France. The next stage is tomorrow's 39 km team time-trial starting and ending in Montpellier. If Team Astana does well, it is quite feasible Armonstrong could once again be leading the Tour de France, even if his team's not willing to admit it.
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