PAU, France — Lance Armstrong, in what may have been the final hurrah of his long Tour de France career, finished sixth Tuesday in stage 16 after riding nearly the entire day in a long breakaway that featured four of the race’s most famous peaks.
Armstrong, his RadioShack teammate, Chris Horner, both age 38 and Christophe Moreau, 39, three riders of the four oldest riders in the race, were among the 10-rider break that emerged a few kilometers from the start.
The group steadily built its advantage to 6 1/2 minutes with about 80 kilometers left in the stage. A few miles before the start of the climb of Col d’Aubisque, the second of two beyond category climbs in the stage, the group had shrunk to five, with Armstrong often the most aggressive in the group.
Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) of Spain jumped from the group, which had expanded to nine, and rode about 25 miles solo. But the Armstrong group caught the lead rider with one kilometer left and the suspense began — an eight-rider sprint
Armstrong remained in the back for the group, but when the riders began to pick their final spots, Armstrong moved to the left and momentarily tried sprinting. He gained slightly on the leaders, but then slowed when he realized his effort was futile and fell back two spots.
Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) emerged as the stage winner, giving France its sixth stage win in the race.
Armstrong, whose hopes for an eighth Tour de France title ended with three crashes in stage 8, began the stage in 31st place, trailing by 40:31. He’s now 25th, trailing race leader Alberto Contador, his former teammate, by 33:46.
Horner, who finished fifth in the stage, began the day 21st overall, trailing by 15:37. He’s now 14th overall, 8:52 behind.
Levi Leipheimer a third RadioShack teammate, is the leading American, seventh overall, 5:25 behind, with four stages remaining. He finished in the main group in 39th place in the stage 16.
Stage 16 (top 10)
1 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom, 5:31:43
2 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux, same time.
3 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
4 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini, s.t.
5 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack, s.t.
6 Lance Armstrong (USA) Team Radioshack, s.t.
7 Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Quick Step, s.t
8 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
9 Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step 0:00:28
10 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team, 0:06:45
Overall Stangings (After 16 Stages)
1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana, 78:29:10
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank, 0:00:08
3 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 0:02:00
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 0:02:13
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto, 0:03:39
6 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank, 0:05:01
7 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack, 0:05:25
8 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha, 0:05:45
9 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana, 0:07:12
10 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions, 0:07:51