Pre-race favourite Armstrong, who had made the decisive break some 35 kms from the end, boldly launched the final sprint 250 metres from the end but tired dramatically near the line. Last year's winner, Swiss Mauro Gianetti, took third place after trying in vain to break free of Armstrong and Richard one kilometre from home.
"I had a superb sprint," MG rider Richard said. "I don't want to boast too much, but today the best rider won." It was the second World Cup victory in the career of the 32-year-old Swiss, who is a former world cyclo-cross champion.
Belgian Johan Museeuw did not take part because of illness but retained his World Cup lead with 87 points, 29 clear of Italian Gabriele Colombo.
Motorola rider Armstrong, who had also finished second in 1994, had a minor scare 50 kms from home when he dropped out of a leading group of six, including Richard, Gianetti and world champion Abraham Olano of Spain, with a tyre puncture. But he was quickly back up front and resumed control of the race, which is one of the toughest one-day events on the calendar with 10 of the 12 climbs in the last 100 kms. He made his move when most riders were recovering from the steep La Redoute climb, the ninth in the series of 12, and only Gianetti and Richard managed to come back.
Armstrong's French teammate Laurent Madouas finished fourth, more than a minute behind.