PAU, France — Lance Armstrong lost a sprint finish and watched his chances of a stage win in his final Tour de France slip away on Tuesday.
Armstrong came in sixth in a sprint won by Pierrick Fedrigo of France, ahead of Sandy Casar of France and Ruben Plaza of Spain. Armstrong had joined the first break of the day and remained ahead of the peloton for nearly the entire length of the 16th stage that had four major climbs, including the famed Col du Tourmalet.
"It was harder than I expected. It's been a while since I sprinted," Armstrong said. "Just not quick enough."
Fedrigo was in a group of nine that included Armstrong, who had attacked repeatedly from the beginning of the stage. Both finished the grueling 124 miles from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Pau in 5 hours, 31 minutes, 43 seconds.
There was no change in the overall standings in the race. Alberto Contador of Spain still owns the yellow jersey, crossing the line in the peloton along with his closest challenger in Andy Schleck of Luxembourg.
Armstrong acknowledged that his career was close to coming to an end. He had announced this month that it would be his final Tour de France.
"Lance Armstrong is over in about four days," he said.
It was the third straight French victory in this year's race and sixth in all.
"It was my day. Everything smiled on me," said Fedrigo, who also won a stage in 2009 and 2006 and has appeared regularly in the breakaways in this year's race. "This shows that it isn't only the great leaders who can win on the Tour de France, it's also the general riders."
Contador's strong Astana team packed the front of the peloton on the climb up the Col d'Aubisque and prevented Schleck from attacking.
Thor Hushovd of Norway achieved a coup on his contenders for the top sprinter crown. While leading sprinter Alessandro Petacchi and three-time stage winner Mark Cavendish trailed along at the back on a stage that was a big struggle for them, Hushovd made it to the front of the peloton. He finished in 10th place and picked up enough points to retake the green jersey.
Schleck had been furious with Contador after Monday's stage because he felt the Spaniard should have waited when Schleck suffered a mechanical problem during the main climb of the day. Contador surged ahead and took the yellow jersey at the end of the stage.
Contador later apologized, and Tuesday the two came together on the stage of the French broadcaster and shook hands.
"We are fine now," Schleck said. "The Tour de France isn't going to be won by eight seconds, and there's going to be a big race between him and me the day after tomorrow."
Wednesday is a rest day in the Tour, but the racers will turn around Thursday and ride the Pyrenees in the other direction, ending on the top of the Col du Tourmalet.