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Monday, July 17, 2006
Armstrong visiting Tour's most grueling climb

Associated Press

GAP, France -- Lance Armstrong was back in a familiar spot -- at the top of L'Alpe d'Huez.

The retired seven-time Tour de France champion pedaled to the Alpine ski resort on Monday's Tour rest day, one day before riders attempt the grueling 116-mile 15th stage.

Armstrong plans to watch the stage on TV, visit the team bus before Wednesday's 16th stage and join manager Johan Bruyneel in the Discovery car on the course route.

Armstrong's presence could serve as motivation for his former Discovery teammates -- none are in the top 10 in the overall standings.

Tuesday's stage ends with a 21-bend climb up L'Alpe d'Huez, a famed ascent where Armstrong decimated the opposition during a tense time trial in 2004. Armstrong had police snipers riding behind in a support car after the Texan received death threats.

Armstrong will leave the team on Wednesday, spend a few days relaxing and rejoin the Tour for Sunday's finish on the Champs-Elysees, Discovery Channel team spokesman P.J. Rabice said.

Armstrong won his record seven Tour titles under Bruyneel's guidance, first with U.S. Postal before Discovery acquired sponsorship of the team. Armstrong is a part-owner of the team.