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Second-straight victory for Cavendish

A TOP Tour de France official said seven-time champion Lance Armstrong will be fined for failing to sign in before yesterday's third stage.

Britain's Mark Cavendish won his second straight stage yesterday, while Armstrong climbed to third place overall by keeping up with a breakaway group.

The Tour's competition director Jean-Francois Pescheux said that "he didn't sign in. ... The rules are clear: if he doesn't sign in, he will be fined."

All riders are required to sign in before starting every Tour stage. Pescheux said Armstrong would receive the standard fine of 100 Swiss francs (US$92).

Pescheux also criticized Armstrong for not making himself more available to fans. However, Astana team spokesman Philippe Maertens said Armstrong was held up by signing autographs and doing interviews before the stage.

Meanwhile, Fabian Cancellara extended his overall lead to 33 seconds after yesterday's third stage.

Cavendish finished in an unofficial time of 5 hours, 1 minute, 24 seconds, with Armstrong and 23 other riders given the same time.

Breakaway riders dominated the hot and breezy 196.5-kilometer course along the Mediterranean from Marseille to La Grande Motte.

The Columbia team took control with about 30km left, with its riders leading a 29-man breakaway that included Armstrong and Cancellara.

On Sunday, Armstrong complained about the heat, saying he had no idea how much weight he burnt off in a stifling and humid second stage, which was also marred by crashes and won by sprint king Mark Cavendish.

Riders need to keep their weight down, but being too light can suggest they are dehydrated "It's hard to hydrate. But you know, it's hot for everybody," Armstrong said.

Meanwhile, the president of the International Cycling Union said Armstrong's comeback had boosted media coverage and it would be great if he would stay around for another year.

"He brings more media interest, regardless of people's opinion on what he has done or not done - which was not proven," Pat McQuaid said.

"There was a huge, mad media ... in Monaco. It is good for the Tour de France and it is good for cycling," he said. "I would like him to stay one more year. It would mean (from now), 18 more months of media interest," said McQuaid.


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