BORDEAUX, France (AP) - Saving himself and his overall lead for their great battle to come, Lance Armstrong finished grouped with archrival Jan Ullrich in the Tour de France's pancake-flat 17th stage Thursday, their focus on an expected race-deciding time trial.
For Armstrong, the day's purpose was to stay safe, out of any crashes. Mission accomplished. His U.S. Postal Service team, racing in a long line at the front of the main pack of riders, guided him toward the finish in Bordeaux, southwestern France's wine capital.
The four-time champion, pursuing Spanish great Miguel Indurain's record of five successive wins, placed 28th, just behind Ullrich. They finished in the same time, 8 minutes and 6 seconds behind Knaven, meaning Armstrong preserved his 67-second lead over the German with just three days of racing to go.
Armstrong and Ullrich are fixing their attention on Saturday's individual time trial, when they race against the clock and try to clinch the overall title.