Published January 13, 2015
Lance Armstrong extended his overall lead as the Tour de France scaled the Pyrenees (search) on Saturday in the 14th stage.
George Totschnig (search) of Austria won the stage, but Armstrong, riding without his teammates, who couldn't keep up on the day's last two climbs, held off his main rivals to place second ahead of Italy's Ivan Basso, with Jan Ullrich of Germany fourth.
He now is 2 minutes and 46 seconds ahead of Basson and 4:34 in front of Ullrich.
The six-time champion's overall lead over Mickael Rasmussen, seconds behind at the start of the day, placed 8th on the stage up to the ski station of Ax-3 Domaines.
The brutal 137-mile trek took place under scorching sun. A sheen of sweat glistened on Armstrong's arms. Riders poured water over themselves to try to cool down.
Armstrong's teammates fell behind when Ullrich's rival T-Mobile squad piled on speed during the day's hardest ascent, a 9.4-mile climb over the Port de Pailheres. It peaks at 6,565 feet and is so hard that it is classified as "hors categorie" — or unrated.
But Armstrong was unfazed. He stayed with Ullrich, Basso and others, and then dished out some punishment of his own on the final climb up to Ax-3 Domaines, powering up the ascent. Neither Basso nor Ullrich could get past him — and in the end, he left both behind.
"It was a very tactical day, with the attack from the T-Mobile," said Armstrong. "The heat, the distance, it was hard, it was a very hard day."
Totschnig, 34, was part of a group of riders that escaped from the main pack shortly after the start in the Mediterranean town of Agde. He managed to shake off the other members of the group on the day's hardest ascent, and rode from there up the final climb alone to win.
He finished 56 seconds ahead of Armstrong for his first stage win in the Tour and broke into tears.
"An extraordinary day," Totschnig said. "I didn't think it was possible to win a stage like that."