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Tour de France cyclists head for Lausanne

Lance Armstrong (left) retained the leader's jersey, but Richard Virenque won Tuesday's stage Keystone

Cyclists on the Tour de France are taking a Swiss detour, heading for Lausanne in the 17th stage of the race. They left Evian-les-Bains on the French side of Lake Geneva on Wednesday on their way into Switzerland.

After an initial flat 15-kilometre stretch along the lake, the world’s top riders are negotiating a further 140 kilometres of Swiss terrain, including the steep climb up the Col des Mosses, before crossing the finishing line at Ouchy in Lausanne.

The overall leader, Lance Armstrong, struggled for the first time on Tuesday’s 16th stage, finishing two minutes behind the first man home, Richard Virenque of France.

But the 28-year-old Armstrong retains the yellow jersey with a lead of more than five and a half minutes over second-placed Jan Ullrich of Germany.

The riders’ arrival in Lausanne will be the fifth occasion on which the tour has come to Switzerland’s Olympic city, but this year will be particularly memorable.

The stage will culminate in a 12-kilometre loop around the city centre to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the International Cycling Union, which is based in Lausanne.

After the race, the riders have been invited to a number of cultural and sporting festivities, including an introduction to the region’s culinary specialities and an exhibition of sport-related art in the city’s Olympic museum.

On Thursday, the tour continues along another 170 kilometres of Swiss roads, crossing through six cantons before ending in Germany.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR