GERARDMER, France -- Lance Armstrong looked around for help and found none. He was alone, on a Tour de France climb, his rivals swarming all over him.
Armstrong's usually trusty teammates failed him Saturday in the first encounter with the mountains, unable to match the punishing pace set on the day's final ascent by riders determined to bring down the six-time champion.
"If it's two more weeks of days like today then you're in trouble," said Armstrong, who kept his overall lead after finishing in 20th place.
Digging in deep, Armstrong found the will and the way to fend off most of his challengers in the eighth stage, which was won by Dutch rider Pieter Weening in a sprint with Andreas Kloeden. Armstrong and key rivals Jan Ullrich and Alexandre Vinokourov arrived in a pack, 27 seconds behind the two leaders.
The collapse of the Discovery Channel team and the strong challenges by the powerful German T-Mobile squad bode ill for Armstrong as harder climbs loom today and next week in the Alps.
"Definitely, a crisis within our team on the final climb," Armstrong said. "For whatever reason I was left alone. We had a bad day as a team and that makes it that much harder and I had to cover some big moves myself."
Today's stage features six climbs on the 106.3-mile route.