ARCALIS, Andorra - Lance Armstrong dropped one spot to third place in the Tour de France on Friday, with rival and teammate Alberto Contador breaking away in the final sprint up the mountain to claim second.
Italy's Rinaldo Nocentini captured the yellow jersey from Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara after a punishing climb in the Pyrenees to complete the seventh stage. It was the first time the overall lead changed hands since Cancellara won the opening-day time trial in Monaco.
The 140-mile leg from Spain into Andorra, the first in high mountains of this three-week race, was won by Brice Feillu of France in a solo breakaway.
Armstrong, a seven-time champion coming out of retirement, said he was not as tired as he thought he'd be.
'Overall, I feel pretty good. ... Things didn't quite go according to plan that we set up earlier, but it didn't matter,' he said. 'It was a fine day overall.'
The 37-year-old Texan began the stage a split second off the lead and now trails by eight. Contador, the 2007 Tour winner, is six seconds behind the leader. He finished 3 minutes, 26 seconds after Feillu.
Contador sped ahead in the last 1.2 miles, looking to seize the overall lead. He started the day 19 seconds behind Armstrong and finished 21 seconds before him.
In the final ascent, Armstrong hugged the wheel of Australia's Cadel Evans, who briefly attacked Armstrong and Contador.
'When you've got a rider away, my obligation is to the team,' Armstrong said. 'I had to stay on his wheel. You just got to stay on his wheel.'
'That's not my specialty,' he added. 'But it's not bad at all, all things considered.'