Lance Armstrong more prominent in 2nd stage Down Under |

Lance Armstrong more prominent in 2nd stage Down Under

Steve McMorran
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, right, of the U.S. peddles during the second stage of Tour Down Under cycling race in Adelaide, Australia Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009. (AP Photo/Aman Sharma)

ADELAIDE, Australia ” Lance Armstrong gave his comeback to professional cycling new credibility when he took a prominent role in the second stage of the Tour Down Under on Wednesday.

Armstrong remained near the front of the pack for most of the day, joined in two attacks in the late uphill stages of the 90-mile stretch and finished 45th out of 133 riders, 13 seconds behind Australian stage winner Allan Davis.

“I feel OK, but it was very hard,” said Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner who is making his return to cycling after three years in retirement. “Attacking on the hills wasn’t the smartest thing to do.

“It felt pretty good. It’s going to take a while to adapt to race speed and today proved that. The long drags uphill were never my long suit and when you get into the race and it’s fast and guys are strong it’s a suffer-fest. But I like to suffer, although it sounds weird.”

Armstrong, 37, took part in an 11-rider breakaway as the stage through rural South Australia neared an uphill finish in front of more than 10,000 fans at Stirling, 30 minutes outside the state capital of Adelaide.

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He then attacked again in a two-man breakaway with Australian Jack Bobridge, a rider 18 years his junior. On both occasions he came back to the bunch but he fulfilled a pre-race promise to be close to the front of the race and to take an opportunity when it presented itself.

“It’s fun to be at the front of the race and as they say over here (in Australia), to give it a twist, to give it a crack,” Armstrong said.

Davis led the race on general classification after two stages, with a three-second advantage over first-stage winner Andre Greipel of Germany. Armstrong was officially 68th in the overall standings and 23 seconds behind the leaders with four stages remaining.

The race ends Sunday.

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