07/22/2004 at 08:00 AM EDT
Lance Armstrong, in his yellow jersey, pedaled ferociously through the Alps Wednesday, shutting out the cheers and jeers that greeted him as he continued the lead that could bring him an unprecedented sixth consecutive Tour de France win.
As for the jeers that were heard along the switchback road leading to the historic summit of L'Alpe d'Huez, some quarters are interpreting them as anti-American sentiments. But the Texas champ seemed to take the taunts in stride.
"I don't want to make it worse than it is. I mean, this is sport. This is big-time sport," Armstrong, 32, told reporters. "If the Bulls played the Knicks in Madison Square Garden, believe me, they're not blowing kisses at the Bulls back in the old days. It gets ugly."
Besides some booing (and spitting), there were also plenty of honking horns and the ringing of cowbells, reports the Associated Press. And rocker Sheryl Crow, who's been accompanying the athlete and his U.S. Postal Service-sponsored team throughout the competition, continued to cheer from the sidelines.
Armstrong won the 9.63-mile time trial by more than a minute over Italian Jan Ullrich, his closest competitor. He shunted aside Ivan Basso, who is in second place overall, passing him with about a mile to go despite a two-minute head start for the Italian.
Armstrong increased his Tour lead over Basso from 1 min., 25 sec. to 3:48 in one massive rush with four stages to go.
The race is due to end Sunday in Paris. Asked on Wednesday if he was thinking about his possible place in history, Armstrong responded: "I try not to think about that. Today, I was focused on trying to stay safe and going for the stage win."