PLATEAU DE BEILLE, France – Michael Rasmussen is starting to resemble Lance Armstrong, and it’s not just because the Dane is wearing the yellow jersey as leader of the Tour de France.
Rasmussen extended his lead against all of his top rivals except Spain’s Alberto Contador in the 14th stage on Sunday, advancing his bid to follow a path blazed by the seven-time Tour champion.
“Rasmussen has done an incredible thing today,” said Johan Bruyneel, sports director of Discovery Channel – Armstrong’s former team that now includes Contador. “The Tour de France is not easy to control.”
The diminutive Dane, who is riding in his fourth Tour, won the first of his two polka-dot jerseys given to the Tour’s best climber in 2005 – when Armstrong last wore the yellow jersey home.
Contador showed Sunday he can’t be counted out, tapping his chest and pointing skyward as he finished a bike length ahead of Rasmussen for his first stage victory.
Both were given the time of 5 hours, 25 minutes, 48 seconds, but because of bonus seconds awarded for a stage win, Contador gained 8 seconds on Rasmussen and vaulted to second overall, 2:31 back.
His yellow jersey partly unzipped, Rasmussen kept close watch on his five nearby rivals – Contador, Cadel Evans, Juan Mauricio Soler, Levi Leipheimer of the United States and Carlos Sastre of Spain.
The riders tested each other with short bursts to see who would be the first to crack. Rasmussen and Contador broke away when the other riders finally began to struggle.
The big loser of the day was Evans, who had begun the stage 1 minute back of Rasmussen in second place. The Australian fell behind in the last 3 miles to drop to third, 3:04 back.
Leipheimer finished 40 seconds back, and now sits fourth overall, 4:29 off the pace.
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