REVEL, France -- Lance Armstrong's team manager said Sunday that the seven-time Tour de France winner has deliberately lost time to save energy for a new goal: a stage victory.
RadioShack boss Johan Bruyneel said a flat tire, several crashes and general "bad luck" early in the three-week race put Armstrong out of contention.
Ahead of the start of four punishing stages in the Pyrenees, the American had lost time to the Tour leader for four straight days. No official explanation immediately was provided by the team.
"That's definitely on purpose," Bruyneel told The Associated Press before the 14th stage Sunday. "Now that he's not in contention for the general classification anymore, you try to save strength.
"And one of these days he may try to get in the breakaway -- and he needs all the freshness he has to try to win a stage."
Armstrong lost time in the first Alpine ride, into Morzine-Avoriaz, then lost more to two-time champion Alberto Contador and current race leader Andy Schleck of Luxembourg in the second.
After that, Armstrong was "not a threat anymore" to the leaders, Bruyneel said. "... It's better if you're 20 minutes down than if you're 12 minutes down" if a rider wants to win a stage.
"The main thing is at the end that you sit up, in the last 10 [kilometers] you don't do that big effort anymore, you're not stressing about the final of the race and you save a lot of energy. From today on, whenever the opportunity arises, he's going to try to win a stage. It's not going to be easy."
The 38-year-old Armstrong was in 36th place overall, 25:38 behind Schleck, at the start of Sunday's 114.7-mile trek from Revel to the ski resort of Ax-3 Domaines.
That course led riders up two extreme climbs, including the Port de Pailheres -- a long and steep ascent that cycling's governing body doesn't even classify.