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Armstrong cares about overall lead

Keeping yellow jersey better than winning stages

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REVEL, France — Lance Armstrong is perfectly satisfied with a second-place finish if it keeps him in the overall lead at the Tour de France.

Armstrong, who hasn't won any of the 11 legs of the 2000 tour, is the favorite to win the three-week endurance race that ends in Paris on July 23.

"I have been second three times this year. Last year, I was able to win the tour and win four stages," the 28-year-old Texan said Tuesday after he maintained his 4-minute, 14-second overall lead.

"The most important thing is to win in Paris, and if that means coming second five times, that's OK."

Armstrong made his move on Monday, when a stunning late climb in the Pyrenees gave him the yellow jersey for the first time this year, and he was happy to stay alongside his main rivals for the tour crown.

Ironically, the winner of the 135-mile stage from Bagneres-de-Bigorre to Revel in southwestern France was Dutchman Erik Dekker — who has won two legs this year but has no expectations to catch Armstrong in the overall standings.

Dekker, who beat Colombia's Santiago Botero in a final sprint, won Saturday's eighth stage.

He is 47th in the standings, 20:40 behind Armstrong, but already considers the 2000 tour a success.

Armstrong, who came back from cancer to win last year's race in spectacular style, hopes that Americans won't be disappointed that he hasn't won a stage.

"In the States, cycling is not a traditional sport," he said. "We don't know the tactics, the ins and outs and the history. We don't know the stories, the significance of winning a stage or of the yellow jersey."

"The main objective is to win overall."

Armstrong finished in 24th place, 5:05 behind Dekker. But he had the same time as second-placed rider Jan Ullrich.

Unlike last year, there are no back-to-back mountain stages until the second half of the 2000 tour.

"I didn't sleep very well on (Monday) night, but I felt good this morning. Normally there are two (mountain) stages, so I didn't feel as fatigued as I did last year after the Alps," he said. "I was lucky enough to have my family, baby boy and in-laws with me. That was good for morale."

Not that there were big celebrations within the U.S. Postal team.

"Someone ordered champagne, but I didn't want any," Armstrong said. "If we win in Paris, I will have champagne, but that is a long way from now."

France's Christophe Moreau remains third overall, 5:10 behind Armstrong, with Marc Wouters of Belgium in fourth, another 8 seconds back.

The 11th stage came as a relief to riders after Monday's energy-sapping mountain climb in driving rain and cold temperatures.

Temperatures on the road to Revel hovered around a 59 degrees, though occasional showers and wind made riding uncomfortable.

Riders left the small town of Bagneres-de-Bigorre in the rolling foothills of the Pyrenees and headed east, passing lush sunflower fields and quaint villages.

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who lives in the region, was among the spectators.

Jospin peered out of the sun roof of the race director's car as the front two riders sprinted through his home town of Cintegabelle. In the manner of a team manager, he gave an interview from his car window to a journalist riding a motorcycle.

Riders have a rest day on Wednesday before Thursday's 12th leg, a 93-mile course that includes a tough climb up Mont Ventoux.