by Ryland James
PERPIGNAN, July 8, 2009 (AFP) – Seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong insisted he has nothing to hide after being routinely drugs tested immediately after finishing Wednesday’s fifth stage here.
Cancer-survivor Armstrong was whisked away by officials immediately after Frenchman Thomas Voeckler handed the host country their first reason to celebrate on this year’s Tour when he claimed his maiden victory.
Saxo Bank’s Fabian Cancellara retains the race leader’s yellow jersey with a 0.22sec lead over Armstrong ahead of Thursday’s sixth stage from Gerona to Barcelona in Spain.
Meanwhile the American insisted he takes every drugs test in stride.
“There is nothing to find – I am not stupid,” insisted Armstrong, who has faced unfounded allegations of doping throughout his career.
“Another anti-doping control again, I have lost count of the number of times. It’s no problem if you have to go to testing straight after the finish, it’s not too bad.
“I was only five minutes later (getting back to the team bus) than I would have been anyway.”
Armstrong had set the Tour’s agenda in the previous two days with a strong finish on Monday’s third stage and then helping lead his Astana team to victory on Tuesday’s team time trial to come within a whisker of Cancellara’s jersey.
Armstrong and his team were again at the forefront on the 196.5km ride from Cap d’Agde to Perpignan as the efforts of Astana and several other teams, in testing wind conditions, threatened leaving some of their rivals further behind.
“It was an interesting day,” said Armstrong.
“Everyone anticipated the wind and knew that part of France is very windy and they knew what happened two days ago, so everyone was more switched on.”
Voeckler, who wore the yellow jersey for 10 days in 2004, launched an attack in the first kilometres of the stage which led to six riders building a lead of around 10 minutes on the bunch.
In the final 4.8km, the peloton left it too late to close the gap and Voeckler stunned the three remaining breakaway companions after he dropped down a gear and launched an unassailable drive for the finish.
Armstrong added: “Who would have thought they would get apart and then we’d come back together and that we wouldn’t catch that break?
“To me it was an odd day in terms of the overall result.
“I just stayed out of trouble and the (Astana) guys looked good.”
But Armstrong gave a subtle dig to Astana’s official team leader Alberto Contador, the 2007 Tour winner, who spent part of Wednesday’s race riding on the back of Armstrong’s wheel.
“I told Alberto before the race that today was going to be complicated, so maybe he sees that I know what is going on in the Tour de France,” said Armstrong with a smile.