SAINT-BRIEUC, France - Lance Armstrong believes Tour de France organizers could do more to calm nervous riders and avoid spills that could ruin his bid for a record sixth straight victory.
For a second straight day, Armstrong offered unsolicited pointers for Tour officials, suggesting that a time trial be held in the often tense first week to thin the number of race favorites.
Sending riders out one-by-one against the clock would leave just the fastest with a realistic chance of winning the three-week Tour. Laggards would fall by the wayside, reducing the field of contenders. That, in turn, could leave fewer racers jostling each day at the front of the race — a recipe for crashes.
‘‘The race needs a time trial in the first week because it’s too nervous without it,’’ said Armstrong, in sixth place, less than 10 minutes behind the overall leader.
‘‘It’s safer for the event to establish some order in the group and we’re still another week away from figuring out who the hell’s going to be in the front.’’
A day earlier, Armstrong said the finish of Friday’s stage was too narrow. A pile-up left some riders badly hurt.
As the 32-year-old Texan tries for a record win, young riders are stealing the headlines.
Outpacing two late challengers, Italy’s Filippo Pozzato bolted to victory in Saturday’s 127-mile ride from Chateaubriant to Saint-Brieuc in Brittany. At 22, Pozzato is the Tour’s youngest rider.
French champion Thomas Voeckler held on to the overall leader’s yellow jersey.
Armstrong was 55th in the seventh stage, 10 seconds behind Pozzato.
Jan Ullrich of Germany, the 1997 Tour winner and Armstrong’s chief rival, placed 30th, in the same time.
Overall, Armstrong remained in sixth place, 9 minutes and 35 seconds behind Voeckler. Ullrich is still 55 seconds behind Armstrong.
A dozen riders have withdrawn from the Tour, mostly with injuries. American Tyler Hamilton, a former teammate of Armstrong riding with Phonak, hurt his back in Friday’s pileup, but kept racing.
Belgian Christophe Brandt became the first rider to fail a doping test. His team said he was sent home after testing positive for a heroin substitute.
Brandt suggested that a lab error might be to blame and said he was awaiting results of a follow-up test.
Tour de France Stage: A wind-swept, 127.08-mile ride from Chateaubriant to Saint-Brieuc.
Winner: Filippo Pozzato, Italy, Fassa Bortolo, 4 hours, 31 minutes, 34 seconds.
How others fared: Lance Armstrong, United States, US Postal-Berry Floor, finished 55th, 10 seconds behind. Jan Ullrich, Germany, T-Mobile Team, finished 30th, same time.
Yellow Jersey: France’s Thomas Voeckler of Brioches La Boulangere retains the leader’s shirt.
Next stage: Today’s eighth stage is from Lamballe to Quimper, 104.40 miles.