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Armstrong near a 3rd Tour title

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SAINT-AMAND-MONTROND, France — Lance Armstrong dominated the competition once again Friday, winning an individual time trial by nearly 1 1/2 minutes to tighten his grip on a third straight Tour de France title.

Wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, Armstrong rode the 37.88 miles in 1 hour, 14 minutes, 16 seconds — an average speed of 30.5 mph — to win a stage for the fourth time in this year's Tour.

He was a stunning 1:24 faster than Spain's Igor Gonzalez Galdeano and 1:39 faster than Germany's Jan Ullrich, the 1997 Tour winner considered Armstrong's main rival this year.

The victory Friday increased Armstrong's edge over second-place Ullrich in the overall standings to 6:44 with just two flat stages remaining before the three-week Tour ends on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Sunday.

Only an injury, seemingly, could stop Armstrong now from becoming just the fifth rider to win the Tour de France three consecutive times. The Tour has been run since 1903.

The American has won four time trials in the last three Tours, including the grueling uphill ride between Grenoble and Chamrousse this year. He claimed his only stage victory in the 2000 Tour by winning the 36-mile stretch from Freiburg, Germany, to Mulhouse in eastern France.

Spain's Joseba Beloki overtook Kazakstan's Andrei Kivilev for third place in the overall standings Friday. Beloki finished third last year behind Armstrong and Ullrich.