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Luís León Sánchez (Caisse d’Epargne) came up first in the opening stage of the Circuit de la Sarthe on Tuesday in France.
Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) finished 29th, safely in the main pack at 10 seconds behind in the 184.6km stage to open the 58th edition of the race around the Loire valley.
Sánchez, who currently leads the season rankings, won for the third time this season. Marko Kump (Andria Mobil) crossed the line second, with Yury Trofimov (Bbox Bouygues) trailing through third.
“It was a very fast stage, and with the heat, it made us tired,” Sánchez said after the race. “When there was one kilometer to go, there was a steep pitch. Arnaud Coyot went to the front of the group and I followed him. I was lucky and able to profit from the situation. The thanks goes to the team.”
Sánchez is in the driver’s seat to try to win the four-day race along France’s Loire valley. Already second in the Tour Down Under and the Tour of the Algarve, third in Paris-Nice and fourth at the Volta a Catalunua, Sánchez seems poised for his first stage-race victory of the year.
The 58th Circuit de la Sarthe continues Wednesday with a split stage. The morning sector is a 97km stage into Angers while the afternoon is the short but decisive 6.8km individual time trial, also in Angers.
Armstrong, meanwhile, continues to tweak his racing schedule.
Following his performance in Sunday’s Tour of Flanders with 27th, the seven-time Tour de France champion announced he will not start the Amstel Gold Race later this month. He also cast doubt on whether or not he’ll race Flèche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège ahead of his first major goal at the Tour of California next month.