But Tuesday's stage was thrown into turmoil when Ullrich attacked up the first-category Colde l'Echarasson, at one stage pulling more than a minute clear of Armstrong.
The American refused to panic, though, and reeled Ullrich in with the help of his US Postal team and Basso's CSC riders.
The group were reduced to just four riders in the final sprint after the climb to Villard-de-Lans, with Armstrong edging out Basso, Ullrich in third and Andreas Kloden back in fourth.
I wish I understood more of this. There appears to be a defacto alliance between Basso/CSC and Armstrong/Postal. Armstrong/Postal's calculated cool is fascinating.