MONTPELLIER, France — Lance Armstrong vaulted to within a second of the overall lead at the Tour de France after his Astana team won Tuesday's team time-trial in a dramatic finish.
Fabian Cancellara, a Swiss rider with the Saxo Bank team, narrowly retained the yellow jersey after the fourth stage, a 24.2-mile ride in and around Montpellier.
Astana came in needing to beat Saxo Bank by more than 40 seconds for Armstrong to take the yellow jersey. The seven-time Tour winner started the stage in third place, and he and Astana exactly matched that 40-second deficit to Cancellara's team, which finished third.
"That's Swiss timing," Cancellara laughed. "Time is on my side."
Armstrong credited the effort by his team, but acknowledged that he had hoped to take the overall lead.
"This is a little bit of a disappointment," Armstrong said. "That's cycling."
He said the course along parched streets and many tight turns was "tricky." Three crashes marred the start of the stage, including one involving Giro d'Italia winner Denis Menchov.
U.S. team Garmin placed second in the stage, 18 seconds after Astana, despite only five of the nine riders being able to keep up the pace.
After the stage, Armstrong and Cancellara each have an overall time of 10 hours, 38 minutes, 7 seconds heading into Stage 5, a 196.5-kilometer jaunt, from Le Cap d'Agde along the Mediterranean to Perpignan.
On Monday, the 37-year-old Texan surprised some of the younger Tour de France contenders Monday to move within striking distance of the yellow jersey.
He made up for what his legs lack in power with road smarts during the breezy third stage along the Mediterranean, rising from third to 10th place.
Armstrong's comeback to cycling's premier race after 3½ years of retirement has sparked considerable interest. Big crowds surround the bus to catch a glimpse of him.
The Tour ends July 26 in Paris.