- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 14, 2002

AVRANCHES, France A crash in the seventh stage of the Tour de France yesterday left Lance Armstrong and his bid for a fourth straight title unscathed.
Armstrong crashed about a mile before the finish, losing his place in the main pack and falling 27 seconds behind the day's leaders.
Armstrong slipped from third to eighth in the standings, 34 seconds behind Spain's Igor Gonzalez Galdeano, who retained the yellow jersey of overall leader.
"I didn't fall off the bike. I just had to put my foot down," Armstrong told Jogi Muller, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service team. "I'm fine."
The handlebars of USPS team member Roberto Heras got tangled in Armstrong's rear wheel. The 30-year-old Armstrong shrugged off the accident.
"I'm just going to have to ride faster in the time trial on Monday," Armstrong told Muller.
It doesn't seem likely that the mishap will seriously hurt Armstrong's chances of taking the title. He won last year's race by more than 6 minutes and is expected to make up time in the mountain stages, which start next week.
The stage win was the first for McGee in the Tour and the first for his fdjeux.com team in five years.
McGee covered the 109-mile stretch through the northern Normandy region in 4 hours, 10 minutes and 56 seconds.
Armstrong's crash also involved Frenchman Laurent Jalabert. Heras and U.S. Postal teammate George Hincapie sustained "a few scratches," Muller said.
"No matter what you try, it's still a hard race, and there are going to be crashes," Muller said. "For five, six and seven hours you're elbow to elbow, fighting for position. In the flat stages as we've seen there are crashes on the left, right and center."
An earlier, more serious crash affected a number of riders. Frenchman Didier Rous was forced out of the race. He was rushed to a hospital with what was believed to be a broken collarbone.
McGee, who said he was briefly delayed by one of the crashes, recovered to beat Estonia's Jaan Kirsipuu and Spain's Pedro Horillo in a sprint finish.
"There was a fall at about 5 kilometers from the finish, and I had to put my foot down," said McGee. "But [teammate] Christophe Mengin led me back to the main pack, and I was in a good position for the last kilometer."
World road champion Oscar Freire, winner of this year's second stage, crashed several minutes before Armstrong and finished 6:23 behind McGee. Rous and Christophe Moreau, who finished fourth in the 2000, were involved in the same accident.
Tour officials said they have done all they can to prevent crashes.
"There have always been crashes in the early phases of the Tour. Today, there were no physical obstacles. It was just due to the nervousness of the pack," Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc said. "I don't know what more we can do to avoid them."
On Friday, Kazakh rider Alexandr Shefer broke his right wrist in a crash. Two other riders pulled out Thursday because of injuries sustained in another spill.
Thousands of spectators turned out along the route for yesterday's trek through the lush fields and cow pastures of Normandy, the site of some of the fiercest fighting in World War II.
The finish line in Avranches was located just yards from a square named for U.S. Gen. George Patton. U.S. forces liberated the town July 31, 1944, marking a turning point in the Allied effort to free France from the Nazis.
Today's eighth stage is a 134.9-mile run through Brittany from Saint-Martin-de-Landelles to Plouay.

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