Lance Armstrong lost key Astana teammate Levi Leipheimer but stayed in third place in the Tour de France as Heinrich Haussler of Germany won the 13th stage run off in appalling conditions on Friday.
Leipheimer pulled out before the start of the 200 kilometer run from Vittel to Colmar, his right wrist in plaster after a late crash on the previous stage. The American is a close friend of Armstrong and was not without hope of overall victory himself as he sat only 39 seconds behind the leader in fourth place before his withdrawal. Leipheimer assesses his Tour de France chances before his crash Armstrong, engaged in a fight to the finish with another teammate, Alberto Contador, for the overall victory in this year’s Tour, was clearly upset by the development. “Woke up to bad news, Levi is out with a broken wrist. Damn,” he wrote on his Twitter blog.
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Armstrong had hoped that the stage in the Vosges mountains might see some changes in the overall lead, but in rainy and cold conditions the main contenders were content to mark time. It left Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy in the yellow jersey, with Contador in second place, six seconds behind and Armstrong a further two seconds back. Haussler, a 25-year-old Cervelo rider, who was second in the Milan-San Remo classic earlier this year, raced clear of a fragmented breakaway group about 50 kilometers from the finish. He eventually finished just over four minutes ahead of second-placed Amets Txurruka of Spain. Armstrong, who briefly stretched his legs on the first category Col du Platzerwasel, finished safely in the bunch which was led home by Thor Hushovd of Norway. The points Hushovd gained for sixth place saw him regain the green jersey from Britain’s Mark Cavendish, who could not stay with the bunch.
Cavendish may get the chance to win back the jersey on Saturday’s stage from Colmar to Besancon over 199 kilometers which is expected to favor sprinters. Sunday sees a mountain top finish at Verbier in the Swiss Alps and a likely showdown between Armstrong and Contador.