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Utahn Keeps Yellow Jersey, Armstrong in Pack at Tour de France

Utahn Keeps Yellow Jersey, Armstrong in Pack at Tour de France

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TOURS, France (AP) -- Lance Armstrong was again content to ride safely behind in the main pack at the Tour de France on Monday, finishing in 87th place while Belgium's Tom Boonen sprinted to a stage victory for the second straight day.

Boonen captured the third stage, a 133-mile leg from La Chataigneraie to Tours, in a riveting dash to the line. He won Sunday in similar fashion, finishing this time in 4 hours, 36 minutes, 9 seconds.

Utahn Keeps Yellow Jersey, Armstrong in Pack at Tour de France

U.S. rider David Zabriskie, born in Utah, of Team CSC kept the overall leader's yellow jersey. Armstrong, the runner-up and just two seconds behind, is bidding for a seventh consecutive title in his last race before retirement.

Armstrong had no intention of winning this stage. He will, however, try to gain more ground on his rivals during Tuesday's key team time trial.

On Monday, the Texan rolled along in the middle of the pack and even found time to chat to Zabriskie, his former teammate at U.S. Postal Service.

"Lance was telling me to just enjoy the yellow jersey," Zabriskie said. "He asked me if he could have a turn.

"It's nice to be in yellow on the Fourth of July," Zabriskie added. "We can celebrate with some fireworks when I get home, a barbecue, and drink the drinks everyone loves to drink."

Armstrong could claim the yellow jersey after the team time trial. His Discovery Channel team will start as the favorite, having routed other teams last year.

"Holding onto the lead is going to be really though," Zabriskie said. "But we have a strong team and we'll give it our best."

Utahn Keeps Yellow Jersey, Armstrong in Pack at Tour de France

In the overall standings, Armstrong conserved his advantage over main rivals Jan Ullrich, Alexandre Vinokourov and Ivan Basso -- all finishing with Armstrong in the main group. The Texan leads Vinokourov by 51 seconds, Ullrich by 66 and Basso by 84.

Boonen was caught in a group of about eight riders entering the last 100 yards, but then cut through a gap and burst toward the line.

Peter Wrolich of Austria finished second and Stuart O'Grady of Australia was third. Australia's Robbie McEwen crossed the line in third place, but organizers ruled he intentionally impeded O'Grady's path to the finish.

Boonen, who won two sprint stages in last year's Tour, kept the green jersey as the best sprinter.

"For me it is really good to have the green jersey. ... I hope to be able to keep hold of it until Paris," he said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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