Vintage Armstrong Stays Strong in Wine Country

From Staff and Wire Reports

Lance Armstrong is right where he wants to be.

He stayed safely in the Tour de France pack on flat ground Thursday, finishing 51st but losing none of his commanding lead of 6 minutes 15 seconds in the Bordeaux wine country.

Now, the 27-year-old Texan who has overcome testicular cancer faces only a flat stage today and a time trial Saturday. Then comes the final ride up the Champs-Elysees.

The 17th stage was a 120-mile ride through pine forests and past vineyards. Belgium's Tom Steels won in a sprint for his third stage victory.

The day got off to a strange start when a labor dispute greeted the riders. Just three miles into the race, the cyclists were blocked by firefighters protesting working conditions. The race had to begin again.

Later, a number of riders found themselves wiping their eyes when a fan threw an unidentified substance onto the road.


The United States stunned the crowd in the first few seconds and silenced it in the second half, playing its best all-around game of the Olympic qualifying tournament in a 115-76 victory over Puerto Rico at San Juan.

The United States finished the second round undefeated (8-0) and clinched the No. 1 seeding in the semifinals, which will be played Saturday with two berths in the 2000 Olympics at stake.

Argentina will be the opponent for the United States, with Puerto Rico facing Canada in the other semifinal.

Steve Smith scored 19 points with Gary Payton and Tim Hardaway adding 17. Tim Duncan had 16 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

The U.S. scored 10 points in the first 90 seconds and put the game away with an 18-0 run early in the second half.

Yolanda Griffith scored 29 points and grabbed 19 rebounds to help the Sacramento Monarchs defeat the New York Liberty, 71-55, in a WNBA game before 9,467 at Sacramento.

Pro Football

Quarterback Cade McNown, the Chicago Bears' top draft pick from UCLA, wasn't at training game in Platteville, Wis. . . . Running back Marshall Faulk, still waiting for a new contract from his new team, was a no-show as St. Louis Ram players assembled for training camp in Macomb, Ill. . . . The NFL is looking into a possible salary-cap violation by the San Francisco 49ers, the team confirmed. While the 49ers didn't specify the case, CNN-Sports Illustrated said it was the 1997 contract of tight end Brent Jones. . . . Quarterback Erik Kramer, dumped by the Bears two days earlier, agreed to a two-year deal with the San Diego Chargers.


A jury found 49er reserve quarterback Jim Druckenmiller not guilty in Christiansburg, Va., on a charge of raping a 22-year-old graduate of Virginia Tech, where Druckenmiller was a star player. . . . Unbeaten heavyweight boxer Ike Ibeabuchi, 26, was arrested in Las Vegas on charges he sexually assaulted a woman in his hotel suite. The woman, described as a 21-year-old entertainer on call, was not named. . . . Former Minnesota Viking defensive end Carl Eller won't be charged following an investigation into allegations by a woman that he sexually assaulted her in a North Mankato, Minn., motel room.


Spaniard Carlos Moya, intent on regaining the No. 1 tennis ranking he lost in May, routed Fernando Meligeni of Brazil, 6-4, 6-3, to reach the quarterfinals of the $1-million Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany. American Vincent Spadea upset fourth-seeded Karol Kucera of Slovakia, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-1). . . . Thomas Muster of Austria and Boris Becker of Germany were the only two of the top 100 ranked men's players not entered in the U.S. Open Aug. 30-Sept. 12 in New York.

Mike Tyson could get a shot at avenging his shocking heavyweight championship loss to James "Buster" Douglas in Tokyo in 1990.

Douglas, 39, is being considered along with Orlin Norris, 33, and Zeljko Mavrovic, 30, as an opponent for Tyson's next comeback Oct. 2 at Las Vegas, according to Jay Larkin, senior vice president in charge of sports for Showtime.

Tyson was knocked out in the 10th round by Douglas, a 42-1 longshot, on Feb. 11, 1990.

Chris Klein scored the second of his two goals with 46 seconds remaining to give the Kansas City Wizards a 4-3 Major League Soccer victory over the Tampa Bay Mutiny before 4,665 in Kansas City, Mo.

Another Syl Apps joined the NHL when the co-captain and center at Princeton last year came to terms with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced. Apps' grandfather and father, both also named Syl, played in the NHL.


Tour at a Glance

* 17th stage--A 123-mile ride from Mourenx at the foot of the Pyrenees near Spain to Bordeaux, a celebrated wine-making city.

* Winner--Belgium's Tom Steels in 4 hours 22 minutes 29 seconds.

* Others--Robbie McEwen of Australia was second, Erik Zabel of Germany third.

* Overall--Lance Armstrong of Austin, Texas, kept his lead of 6 minutes 15 seconds.

* Next--Today's stage is 117 miles, from Jonzac to Futuroscope.

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