Lance takes weight off VoecklerClose
Thomas Voeckler switches his attention to the white jersey as Lance heaps more praise on his team, nPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Having held the yellow jersey since stage five, Brioches La Boulangre's Thomas Voeckler finally had to relinquish it to Lance Armstrong on Tuesday's 180.5-kilometre 15th stage between Valras and Villard de Lans. Voeckler finished 9-30 down on stage winner Armstrong, and now trails the Texan by 9-28 overall after Armstrong also took a 20-second win bonus. "I gave it everything today," the young Frenchman said at the finish. "As things got harder, there was nothing I could do - Armstrong was too strong. But I don't feel disappointed about losing the yellow jersey," continued Voeckler. "I held it a long time, and I was happy to be wearing it. I have no regrets - it's been a positive experience for me." Despite losing cycling's 'Golden Fleece', Voeckler was still able to climb onto the podium at the end of the stage - to receive the white jersey of best young rider. He still leads that competition by 7-41 from countryman Sandy Casar (fdjeux.com). "Wearing the yellow jersey has been a bonus, whereas the white was always an objective," Voeckler said. "Now I hope I can recuperate for tomorrow's stage to Alpe d'Huez. My objective is to defend the white jersey." Armstrong knew a long way from home that the yellow jersey was once again his: "And I'm excited to take the yellow jersey, even if it is the 61st one, or whatever it is, of my career. I'm pleased to be wearing the yellow jersey on as big a stage as Alpe d'Huez. "I expect Ivan Basso to be strong, and tough to beat on the Alpe," the five-time Tour winner added. "He's well prepared; I know that he's trained on the climb a lot. But starting behind him is a big advantage as I'll be able to get his time checks." A happy, but tired-looking Armstrong was also quick to heap praise on his team-mates once again: "The team was fantastic today. We proved we're the strongest. We could hear on the radio that George [Hincapie] and 'Chechu' [Jos Luis Rubiera] were coming back up to the front group, but Floyd [Landis] and Jens Voigt (CSC) were doing well at the front, so we didn't wait for them. The 'Player of the Day' for me was Floyd." When Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) finally seemed to get his act together and attacked on the first category climb of the Col de l'Echarasson with 60km to go, Armstrong says that he wasn't concerned. Along with his US Postal team, he also had Basso's CSC team working with him - the Danish squad concerned that Basso was in danger of losing his second place overall to Ullrich. "We knew the climb from the Dauphin Libr," Armstrong said. "It was good for two teams to work together. Had I been alone, it might have been a different story, but I had guys there, and Basso had guys there, so Ullrich's attack was not a problem."