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Armstrong finishes 36 minutes behind

Lance Armstrong finished the eighth stage of the Tour de France nearly 36 minutes behind winner Erik Dekker on Sunday but remained in position to win the race for the third straight year.

Riding through heavy rain and cold wind, the Texan crossed the finish line with the main pack 35 minutes, 54 seconds after the Dutchman.

The big margin probably will not have much bearing because Dekker and the 13 riders within 10 minutes of him are not expected to do well in the key mountain stages that start Tuesday.

Dekker, who rides for Rabobank, edged Spain's Aitor Gonzalez in the final sprint on a day when another Spanish rider became the Tour's first cyclist to fail a drug test.

Dekker completed the 138-mile stage in 4:59:18. The stretch took riders from Colmar near Germany to Pontarlier, close to the Swiss border.

"It was cold, and when you're in a breakaway group you get home quicker," Dekker said.

Also in the breakaway group was Australia's Stuart O'Grady. He reclaimed the overall leader's yellow jersey by finishing 2:32 behind Dekker.

Armstrong was 35:19 behind O'Grady but remained 27 seconds ahead of his main rival, Jan Ullrich of Germany.

Only seven riders trailed O'Grady in the standings by fewer than 30 minutes. Armstrong and Ullrich can easily gain time in the Alps and the Pyrenees, which force many riders to abandon the Tour.

Servais Knaven of the Netherlands was third, registering the same time as the top two finishers. The three were part of a 14-man group that broke from the main pack after the first three miles.

The cyclists rode through fertile pastures and followed a stretch of the Doubs Rver. Despite the icy rain and strong wind there were no major crashes.

Today's stage covers 115 miles, from Pontarlier to Aix-les-Bains at the foot of the Alps.

Dekker's victory followed news that Txema Del Olmo pulled out of the race. His preliminary urine sample showed unspecified "abnormalities," his Euskaltel team said.

The test was done after the prologue in Dunkirk last weekend. The team said he has asked that a second sample be taken.

He was informed of the result Friday by the International Cycling Union and the team decided he should withdraw. Del Olmo did not start Saturday's stage.

The 1998 Tour de France was shaken by a drug scandal that led to several riders being kicked out of the event.

88th Tour de France

SUNDAY, STAGE 8: A 138.17-mile stretch from Colmar to Pontarlier near the Swiss border.

WINNER: Dutch rider Erik Dekker in 4 hours, 59 minutes, 18 seconds.

HOW OTHERS FARED: Two-time defending champion Lance Armstrong was 51st, finishing in the main pack, 35:54 behind Dekker. Australia's Stuart O'Grady was fifth and took the leader's yellow jersey.

TODAY, STAGE 9: 114.89 miles from Pontarlier to Aix-les-Bains, at the foot of the Alps.

TV: Noon, Fox Sports Net.