AP Sports Writer
BOLOGNA, Italy (AP) — Lance Armstrong has a new role: water boy.
The seven-time Tour de France champion went about his work Saturday, carrying a couple bottles up to his teammates late in the 14th stage of the Giro d'Italia.
"At that moment in the race the whole team was with Levi (Leipheimer) and Lance was dropping back a little bit," Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel said. "He wanted a Coke for himself. It was deep in the finale, so I told him, 'Now that you're here, take a bottle for yourself but bring a few bottles up there at least for Levi and maybe for Popo (Yaroslav Popovych).' It was nice to see. Lance is definitely not the leader of the team. Levi is."
Armstrong, a Texan, is still regaining his form after 3½ years of retirement and breaking his collarbone in March. He dropped to 14th overall, 7 minutes, 28 seconds behind race leader Denis Menchov.
Leipheimer dropped three seconds to Menchov in an uphill finish but remained third overall, 43 seconds back. Leipheimer is riding with bandages on his left arm because of large cuts following a fall on Wednesday.
"The last couple of days I'm definitely sore from the crash," Leipheimer said.
Simon Gerrans of Australia won the stage with a long breakaway, clocking 4 hours, 16 minutes, 48 seconds over the hilly 107-mile leg from Campi Bisenzio to Bologna.
Rubens Bertogliati of Switzerland was the runner-up, 12 seconds behind. Francesco Gavazzi of Italy was third, 18 seconds back. Armstrong finished 1:58 behind.
Gerrans was part of a 14-man group that that broke away from the main pack 7½ miles into the stage. The Cervelo team rider left behind his final breakaway companions shortly before the finish.
Gerrans won a stage in last year's Tour de France with a similar breakaway and uphill finish. This time, his plan was to go up the road only if defending Tour champion Carlos Sastre needed him later in the stage.
"Perfect tactics," Gerrans said.
The stage began on the outskirts of Florence and featured three climbs as it traversed the Appenine mountains. The route concluded with a 1.3-mile steep ascent to the San Luca shrine.
The stage was perfectly suited for Di Luca, and the 2007 winner would have liked to finish in the top three to gain a time bonus. Even though he knew the stage would be won by a rider from the breakaway, Di Luca attacked on the climb to San Luca.
Menchov was able to keep up with Di Luca on the climb. Leipheimer dropped about 25 yards behind on the steepest section but was able to close most of the gap before the finish and keep his losses to a minimum of only three seconds.
"I kind of expected it," Leipheimer said. "It's not a big deal but I don't want to give up seconds."
Di Luca, Menchov, Sastre and a few other riders finished 1:04 behind Gerrans. Leipheimer and prerace favorite Ivan Basso crossed 1:07 back.
"Three seconds is not so much, but maybe it's a good sign for us," Menchov said. "It's too early for us (to attack). This climb is unique. It's perfect for an explosive rider like Danilo."
For a third consecutive day, the stage was shaped by severe heat and humidity, with the temperature at about 86 degrees. Team helpers — called domestiques in cycling — are sometimes capable of carrying up to 10 water bottles to their teammates.
Armstrong had some trouble.
"He is not used to that," Bruyneel said. "It was a little bit a problem for him to put the bottles in the pocket because that is a special technique. He was like a young rider. But this is proof again that he is here definitely as a preparation and whenever there is a moment to be part of the team, he is ready to do that."
British sprinter Mark Cavendish withdrew a day after winning a stage for the third time in this year's race. Teammate Mark Renshaw also left. The Katusha team leader, Filippo Pozzato, pulled out, citing a knee injury.
Another undulating stage is scheduled for Sunday, a 100-mile route from Forli to Faenza. A tough uphill finish to Monte Petrano awaits Monday before the race ends in Rome on May 31.
"Tomorrow is a tough stage but it's not as tough as today was, so we've got to try and recuperate for Monday," Di Luca said. "A big part of this Giro is going to be decided Monday."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.