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Tuesday, July 20, 2004
'02's best young rider hot on Armstrong's trail


VILLARD DE LANS, France -- Italy's Ivan Basso finished second again to Lance Armstrong on Tuesday to maintain his status as the biggest threat to the American's hopes of winning a record sixth Tour de France.

Armstrong won with a late burst to the line, but Basso finished in the same time after shadowing the Texan during the 180.5-km 15th stage through the Alps.

With Frenchman Thomas Voeckler finishing nine minutes and 30 seconds behind the pair, Armstrong took over the race leader's yellow jersey and Basso moved up to second, 1:25 behind.

"I've ridden well yet again, but Lance was stronger than me today," Basso said.

"I decided not to attack because tomorrow's time trial to L'Alpe d'Huez will be a very important head-to-head battle -- and then there's another mountain stage the day after.

"I'll try to attack then if I've got the strength."

Basso and Armstrong shared two stage wins in the Pyrenees last week, but the Italian CSC team leader said he was fighting for the race.

"We rode together in the Pyrenees because it was important for both of us to gain time on riders like Jan Ullrich and Andreas Kloeden. We've got common interests and so it was right to do it."

Basso's victory last Friday on stage 12 to La Mongie was his first on the Tour. He won the white jersey for best young rider in 2002 and was seventh overall last year.