PAU, France – Lance Armstrong (search) kept his overall lead and teammate George Hincapie (search) won the 15th stage of the Tour de France on Sunday, the hardest day of climbing in the Pyrenees.
The two friends beamed as they hugged each other after Armstrong finished more than five minutes behind his teammate. Armstrong gave a thumbs-up in reaction to the first-stage win by one of his teammates since 1999.
"This is a dream for me," Hincapie said.
Armstrong called it a "perfect day."
"He is my biggest guy, my biggest friend on the team," the Texan said of Hincapie, the only teammate to be with Armstrong for all six of his Tour victories. They have known each other since they were teenagers.
Armstrong finished with Italian Ivan Basso (search), who jumped to second in the overall standings but still trails the American by 2 minutes and 46 seconds. Mickael Rasmussen of Denmark fell back to third overall, now 3:09 behind Armstrong.
Jan Ullrich of Germany struggled on the final climb and now trails Armstrong by 5:58.
Hincapie was part of a group of riders that broke away from the main pack early in the sun-baked 127.7-mile stage from Lezat-sur-Leze to the ski station of Saint-Lary Soulan.
Hincapie and Oscar Pereiro fought for the victory alone on the final climb. The tall, genial New Yorker beat the Spaniard with a sprint finish, shaking his head in disbelief as he crossed the line.