Frank Schleck of Luxemburg, right, overall leader, Alberto Contador of Spain (centre) and Andy Schleck of Luxemburg (left) battle in a three-man breakaway in the Tour's 17th stage on July 22, 2009. ((Joel Saget/Getty Images) )

As the final leg of the Tour de France nears, Frank Schleck of Luxembourg won Wednesday's 17th stage and Alberto Contador took second place as he closed in on the overall win.

Seven-time winner Lance Armstrong fell from second to fourth overall during Wednesday's course, considered one of the toughest of the cycling race — a 169-kilometre ride from Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Le Grand-Bornand that ends on a downhill.

Contador, the 2007 winner, hung on to the yellow jersey by keeping pace with Schleck and his younger brother Andy. They finished the stage ahead of the pack in a three-man push that saw Andy Schleck finish third, while Armstrong was fifth, two minutes and 18 seconds back.

Armstrong was passed by the Schleck brothers in the overall standings, with Andy Schleck in second place trailing Contador by 2:26 and Frank Schleck 3:25 behind the Spaniard.

Armstrong is now behind Contador by 3:55, but that could change. Unlike the Schlecks, time trials are Armstrong's strength, and he could catch up in the 40.5 km race against the clock in Annecy on Thursday during Stage 18.

Victoria native and Team Garmin-Slipstream rider Ryder Hesjedal came in 26th place in Wednesday's course.

The Tour ends Sunday in Paris.      

With files from The Associated Press