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Jeers don't affect Armstrong's lead

As he closes in on a fourth straight Tour de France title, Lance Armstrong is hearing a familiar but unwelcome chant from fans lining the route.

On Sunday, after another strong performance in the mountains extended his overall lead to almost 4{ minutes, Armstrong had heard enough.

"If I had a dollar for every time somebody yelled, "Doe-PAY! Doe-PAY!' (French for doped), I'd be a rich man," he said. "It's disappointing."

Thanks to a sprint up the formidable Mont Ventoux, Armstrong stretched his lead over Spain's Joseba Beloki to 4 minutes, 21 seconds.

Armstrong finished third, 2:20 behind the winner, France's Richard Virenque, who led the last 125 miles of the 137-mile 14th stage.

Thousands turned out, but not all cheered Armstrong.

"The people are not very sportsmanslike, some of them," the U.S. Postal Service rider said. "A boo is a lot louder than a cheer. If you have 10 people cheering and one person booing, all you hear is the boo."

Many waved the U.S. flag and banners with Armstrong's name. But they were outnumbered by those supporting the French, Belgian, Italian and German riders.

Virenque is one of the most popular riders with French fans, though two years ago he confessed to taking drugs when competing for the Festina team. That squad, including Virenque, was thrown out of the 1998 Tour when a stash of banned drugs was found in a team car.

Since he began dominating the Tour in 1999, Armstrong has heard accusations of drug use. He denies using performance enhancers and never has failed a drug test.

He said he could not understand the fans' jeering.

"I think it's an indication of their intelligence," he said. "I'm not here to be friends with a bunch of people who stand at the side of the road, who have had too much to drink and want to yell.

"It's an issue of class: Do you have class, or do you not have class? That's not the way a classy person acts."

Virenque's stage win was the fifth of his Tour career but the first since returning from a nine-month ban that prevented him from riding in last year's competition.

He drew the ban for admitting to drug use in a trial that grew out of the Festina scandal.

"At the foot (of the Ventoux), I didn't believe I could do it," said Virenque, who finished in 5:43.26. "The public carried me."

Armstrong has not won a stage at the Ventoux in five attempts, including the 2000 Tour and three editions of the Dauphine Libere race.

"I didn't come here to win the Mont Ventoux," he said. "I came here to win the Tour de France."

Six stages remain in the three-week event, including three mountain stages in the Alps, but Armstrong's rivals are unlikely to reduce his lead. Today is a rest day.

Mont Ventoux rises 6,309 feet from flat countryside in southeastern France. The summit is a barren landscape of white rocks with no trees or shrubs.

FANS INJURED: An adult and an 11-year-old were slightly injured after they were hit by police motorbikes from the Tour convoy in separate accidents. Both were trying to cross the road taken by the Tour when the accidents occurred. Last week, a 7-year-old boy was killed by a car from the convoy.

Tour de France

SUNDAY'S 14TH STAGE: 137 miles, Lodeve to the top of Mont Ventoux.

WINNER: France's Richard Virenque, in 5 hours, 43 minutes, 26 seconds.

HOW OTHERS FARED: Three-time champion Lance Armstrong finished third, 2:20 behind Virenque, and extended his overall lead. Armstrong leads second-place Joseba Beloki of Spain by 4:21.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If I had a dollar for every time somebody yelled, "Doped! Doped!' I'd be a rich man." _ Armstrong on Tour de France fans who accuse him of taking banned substances.

NEXT STAGE: Today is a rest day. Tuesday's 15th stage is 140.4 miles from Vaison-la-Romaine to Les Deux-Alpes in the Alps.

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