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Tyler: ‘We’ll have to ride at the front’

American Tyler Hamilton has shaken off his freakish first week on the Tour de France to insist he can give former boss Lance Armstrong a run for his money in the battle for the yellow jersey. Hamilton, who rides for Phonak, is in a great position on the race's general classification - just behind Armstrong - after a week of mainly flat but troublesome stages, once of which sent him flying over the handlebars of his bike onto his back and head. Phonak’s time trial was also blighted by punctures, falls, and injuries that trimmed the squad to the bare minimum of five men, but it still claimed

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By Agence France Presse

American Tyler Hamilton has shaken off his freakish first week on the Tour de France to insist he can give former boss Lance Armstrong a run for his money in the battle for the yellow jersey.

Hamilton, who rides for Phonak, is in a great position on the race’s general classification – just behind Armstrong – after a week of mainly flat but troublesome stages, once of which sent him flying over the handlebars of his bike onto his back and head.

Phonak’s time trial was also blighted by punctures, falls, and injuries that trimmed the squad to the bare minimum of five men, but it still claimed a surprising second place behind Armstrong’s US Postal outfit.

The 33-year-old Hamilton is known for his toughness – a former top skier, he was once almost paralyzed after a mountain bike accident. Last year, despite sustaining a fractured collarbone in a crash on the first stage of the Tour, he completed the race in fourth place and won a tough climbing stage to boot.

So it seems no surprise that the former U.S. Postal rider, who helped Armstrong claim three of his five victories so far, is feeling confident, and almost fully fit ahead of two tough mountain stages in three days’ time. He sits in 11th place overall at 10:11 behind French race leader Thomas Voeckler (Brioches la Boulangere), while Armstrong is sixth at 9:35 and Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) is in 20th at 10:30.

“I’m confident,” Hamilton said Monday. “Just look at the general classification. The most important thing in the first week was to avoid crashing out of the race in a fall. We would have liked to have been a little bit more lucky, but the Tour really only starts now. Lance (Armstrong) and Ullrich are in good shape too. It will be difficult, but I’m confident.”

Hamilton expects Wednesday’s 237km stage from Limoges to Saint-Flour, which could provide the first real changes on GC, to be “very difficult.”

“You could say that’s where the Tour starts,” he said.

Armstrong, who spent the rest day here on Monday sleeping, training and spending time with his American pop-star girlfriend Sheryl Crow, goes into the second part of the Tour having enjoyed a comparatively flawless first week.

Hamilton’s first week was not the same. Phonak’s team time trial performance apart, his fall – and injuries to other team members – left them all shook up. But Hamilton feels they can forget about their misfortune, and take the race to his former team.

“From my perspective you have to take two elements into consideration,” he said. “One, we had a great team time trial. Without all the punctures and the other things that happened to us, we could have won it. Secondly, we haven’t really had luck on our side. And then there was my crash.”

Hamilton hopes to change his luck in the Pyrénées, though he declined to give any hints as to the team’s strategy.

“It’s a secret, I can’t tell you,” he said. “Of course we will have to attack. As well as me, (teammate) Oscar Sevilla can also attack. We’ll have to ride at the front.”