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The Latest: Rain and hail pounds Tour de France
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LANNEMEZAN, France (AP) — The latest from the 12th stage of the Tour de France (all times local):


3:50 p.m.

Hailstones the size of peas are pelting the finish line at the Tour de France about an hour before riders scale the last Pyrenean climb in this year's race.

Sticky heat bothered the pack as it set off from Lannemezan on Thursday morning. Now they'll need their rain gear. The deluge at the finish should refresh those who were suffering as the thermometer climbed into the 30s Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) but could also make roads slick on the steep final ascent to Plateau de Beille.

Here's a video of the storm:


1:20 p.m.

Lance Armstrong says he understands there are "hard feelings" toward him in the cycling world that will go on for a long while.

The Texan, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping, spoke to reporters Thursday before taking part in a charity ride in southern France on the same roads Tour riders are to cover.

Some competitors in the race this year have reacted to Armstrong's presence with indifference.

In a crush of dozens of reporters, Armstrong was asked whether he believed the race was now clean. "How can I answer that question?" he replied. "I am not a specialist."


11.50 a.m.

Chris Froome is leading the pack as Tour de France riders head off on the last and hardest of three days in the Pyrenees in Stage 12.The 195-kilometer (121-mile) ride from Lannemezan to the Plateau de Beille ski station features four categorized climbs — starting with a short but steep ride up the Portet d'Aspet pass and an uphill finish

The British leader on Team Sky has a 2 minute, 52 second lead on American rider Tejay van Garderen, who is second, and all other pre-race favorites are at least 3 minutes behind.

Many race observers say Froome has been so dominant that it looks unlikely that he will lose the three-week race when it finishes on Paris' Champs-Elysees on July 26.

Van Garderen, Colombia's Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador of Spain say it's not over yet.


9.30 a.m.

Like an unwanted ghost, Lance Armstrong has returned to the fringes of the Tour de France on a money-raising ride ahead of the showcase race he once ruled.

The American, stripped of his seven Tour victories for doping, set off early Thursday morning with former footballer Geoff Thomas, who is raising funds to fight blood cancer. They are riding the Tour route one day ahead of the race. Armstrong is riding two stages, starting with Thursday's trek from Venerque to Rodez.

Riding with amateurs and without hordes of fans cheering him on is a major comedown from Armstrong's heydays from 1999-2005, when winning the Tour turned the cancer survivor into a superstar.

Although Armstrong's return to French roads - shown live on national TV - is stealing some of the spotlight from the Tour, race riders were largely indifferent. Race leader Chris Froome called it "a non-event for us."