REVEL, France – Lance Armstrong's (search) teammate Paolo Savoldelli (search) won the longest stage of the Tour de France (search), finishing far ahead of the six-time champion and other top riders who took it easy over the 148.8-mile trek Wednesday across southern France.
But awaiting Armstrong at the finish was the 79th race leader's yellow jersey of his storied career. That matched the number won by French great Bernard Hinault, though it was still behind Eddy Merckx's record of 111. Hinault, Merckx, Miguel Indurain (search) and Jacques Anquetil won the Tour five times — a record Armstrong beat last year.
Savoldelli was part of a breakway group that built up a lead of more than 24 minutes over Armstrong's following pack. Because the riders ahead were no threat to his overall lead, Armstrong did not give chase.
Instead, Armstrong and the others in his pack, which included all of his closest rivals, soaked up the scenery of rolling hills, picturesque villages and freshly harvested fields, chatting among themselves and occasionally joking with the television crews on motorcycles covering the race's stage 17.
Savoldelli's victory was the second individual stage win for Armstrong's Discovery Channel team. George Hincapie (search) won another stage in the Pyrenees, and was the first of Armstrong's support riders to win a stage since the Texan began his run of Tour de France victories. Armstrong, so far, is winless.
Armstrong, the pressure eased since he emerged from this Tour's last day in the high mountains on Tuesday with his comfortable lead intact, hammed it up Wednesday for TV viewers.
"George, George," he shouted to his teammate Hincapie, urging him to speak to the cameras.
"I'm working, I can't speak," Hincapie said as he pedaled.