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Armstrong apologizes over Giro protest

LANCE Armstrong was apologetic and avoided launching into a verbal war with race organizers following the protest that marred the ninth stage of the Giro d'Italia.

"It's an unfortunate situation, an accumulation of days and days of frustration and I think fear on a lot of people's parts and then this war of words and this war of power afterwards that we have to avoid," Armstrong said in a video message posted late on Monday, the Giro's first rest day.

Armstrong played an integral role in a group protest that ended up annulling times in Sunday's stage because riders considered the city circuit through Milan dangerous.

Armstrong was seen discussing the perils of the circuit with the race organization's car as he pedaled through Milan, and he stood next to overall leader Danilo Di Luca when the Italian addressed the fans in the middle of the stage with a microphone to explain the protest, interrupting the race briefly.

For most of the stage, the pack pedaled far below its normal pace, denying fans a chance to see quality racing.

"I think the real point here, and I think the point that we as riders would like to get across is that we're sorry about that. It wasn't an ideal outcome, nobody was happy with that," Armstrong said.

"We didn't feel the conditions were safe," the Texan added, listing a number of problems with the course - from parked cars to tram tracks, and traffic islands.

Race director Angelo Zomegnan was livid over the protest, especially since the stage was designed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Giro's founding in Milan.

"This circuit required explosive bursts. It required riders to get their butts up on the seats of their bikes, and some riders who are not so young anymore apparently don't feel like doing that," he said. "Instead, it seems like their legs have become shorter and their tongues longer."

Asked if he was referring to the 37-year-old Armstrong, Zomegnan replied, "I never name people who have disappointed me, just like I don't name girlfriends that have snubbed me."


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