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Armstrong: Some fans showed little class on Ventoux

Tour de France race leader Lance Armstrong took a swipe at French fans who he said insulted him regularly as he blasted his way up the Mont Ventoux during the 14th stage on Sunday. The 30-year-old three-time winner of the world's biggest bike race finished third on a stage won by Frenchman Richard Virenque, who managed to hold on to his early lead despite Armstrong chasing him down in the final few kilometers. Armstrong's failure to catch Virenque, who finished 2:20 ahead of the American and 1:58 ahead of Russian Alexandre Botcharov, had good consequences however for his overall position in

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By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright AFP2002

Tour de France race leader Lance Armstrong took a swipe at French fans who he said insulted him regularly as he blasted his way up the Mont Ventoux during the 14th stage on Sunday.

The 30-year-old three-time winner of the world’s biggest bike race finished third on a stage won by Frenchman Richard Virenque, who managed to hold on to his early lead despite Armstrong chasing him down in the final few kilometers.

Armstrong’s failure to catch Virenque, who finished 2:20 ahead of the American and 1:58 ahead of Russian Alexandre Botcharov, had good consequences however for his overall position in the race.

The U.S. Postal team leader, who had held a 2min 28sec lead over his closest rival for the yellow jersey, Spaniard Joseba Beloki, increased his margin to a massive 4:21.

However the American was clearly unhappy with the reception he got from some roadside fans as he made his way up the only climb of the day, the mythic 21km Mont Ventoux. It’s disappointing to be honest,” he said of the crowds behavior. “The people were not sportsmanlike. The boos are louder than the cheers. If I was given a dollar for every dopé, dopé, I would be a rich man.”

Armstrong, who recovered from testicular cancer to become a Tour de France champion, has had to combat persistent drug innuendos in recent years, allegations that he has strenuously denied.

On the Tour’s many climbs, in the Pyrenees and the Alps, thousands of cycling fanatics line either side of the road, some for days prior to the actual stage, in what is usually a festive atmosphere.

“I’m not here to be friends with the people at the side of the road who drink too much and shout at the riders,” he added defiantly. “Don’t come to the bike race if you’re going to yell at people. It’s an issue of class.” The US Postal team leader, who is well on his way to winning a fourth consecutive yellow jersey when the race arrives in Paris on July 28, said the short-term abuse would do him no lasting damage.

“It doesn’t bother me, not now and not in four years’ time when I’m lying on the beach with my kids, drinking a beer.”