Lance strong as the Tour Down Under goes uphill

January 21st, 2009 - 4:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Jan 21 (DPA) Cycling great Lance Armstrong was on the pace and happy to finish in the bunch Wednesday as Australia’s Tour Down Under hit the Adelaide hills. The 145-kilometre second stage wound up with three hilly 20-kilometre circuits and the 37-year-old Texan showed he was in his element as the gradients got steeper.

It again came down to a bunch sprint, with Australia’s Allan Davis of the Quick Step team pipping countryman Graeme Brown on the line.

As with the first stage, a mostly flat 140-kilometre jaunt, Armstrong crossed in the peloton and was accorded the same time as the winner.

It was Armstrong’s first stage race since announcing in September his three-year furlough was over and he would come back and try for an eighth Tour de France victory.

“I’m taking this day by day,” Armstrong said after Germany sprinter Andre Greipel took the first stage. “All the early indications are that I’m feeling pretty good, but I’ll see how the recovery is.”

Greipel, last year’s Tour Down Under winner, is not favoured to triumph this year because of changes intended to benefit all-rounders like Armstrong and make things harder for sprinters like Greipel.

The Tour Down Under is unique in the 15-event ProTour calendar with all nights spent in Adelaide, with riders driven to the start of each outlying stage.

It’s a gentle reintroduction to the rigours of road racing. The Tour Down Under, mostly over flat countryside and with stages averaging just 133 kilometres, is a world away from the savage climbs and 200-kilometre-plus stages of the Tour de France and other European majors.

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