Oscar-winner Williams salutes battling Armstrong


June 18, 2010 Updated Jul 12, 2009 at 7:11 PM EDT

Academy-award winning actor and cycling enthusiast Robin Williams paid tribute to his friend Lance Armstrong's determination to return and win an eighth Tour de France.

The 57-year-old, who won an Oscar for best supporting actor in 1998 for the film Good Will Hunting, visited the race and saw Frenchman Pierrick Fedrigo win the race's ninth stage held over 160.5km from Saint Gaudens to Tarbes.

Italian Rinaldo Nocentini retained the yellow jersey while seven-times Tour winner Armstrong remains in third at eight seconds behind.

It is the second time this Tour a Hollywood A-list star has visited Armstrong after Ben Stiller dropped into Marseille last Monday to visit the cyclist after the pair appeared in the movie Dodgeball together.

"He's a great friend and it's great to hang out with him," said Williams, who lives near Armstrong's Astana team-mate Levi Leipheimer in California.

"You have to say they are a great team, anybody who rides in conditions like today, you have to salute them."

Williams praised cancer-survivor Armstrong's return to the Tour after a four-year break in a bid to win an eighth title and highlight the fight against the disease.

"It's wild to see him back on the Tour," said Williams.

"You'd think after seven wins he'd think 'c'est fini', but no, he is back for one more time.

"That is pretty ballsy. To race the Giro d'Italia and the Tour of California already this year, it's kind of great and he is doing it for many reasons which is wonderful to see."

This is not the first time Williams has visited Armstrong on the Tour, having been a regular when the American raced for the US Postal and Discovery Channel teams.

"People watching at home have no idea how hard this event is," said Williams.

"On TV the mountain stages look a bit steep, when you are there they are insanely steep, even in the car you have to look through the sunroof to see the top when you are at the bottom.

"They are coming down the mountains at 60 miles an hour.

"Someone told me in the Giro a rider fell 600ft and lived, that gives you an idea. That is a long way down."

Williams could not resist cracking a joke when asked if other stars would be visiting Armstrong.

"Paris Hilton has to come to the final stage, after all they named the city after her," he said.

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