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Armstrong escapes carnage

AMERICAN Lance Armstrong safely avoided the carnage that forced nine riders to quit the race as he recorded his best result at the Tour Down Under yesterday.

The seven-time Tour de France winner finished the third stage in 32nd position to move to 39th place overall, 29 seconds behind Australian race leader Allan Davis with three stages of the 800 kilometer race remaining. A lack of organization and co-operation among leading riders prevented the attack from being more decisive, and perhaps denied Armstrong a chance of his first stage win.

Davis finished second behind Graeme Brown in the 136km stage from Unley to Victor Harbour in Adelaide, despite being involved in a pileup with a police motorcycle.

Davis recovered and got back on his bike but Germany's Andre Greipel, last year's race winner, was not so lucky, tumbling over the handlebars after ploughing straight into the motorbike. He was taken to hospital with a dislocated shoulder that requires surgery and will sideline him for at least three months, while another eight riders also pulled out following a series of high-speed crashes on a wild and windy day.

"We've lost more riders in this one stage than we've lost in the 10-year history of the race," race director Mike Turtur told reporters.

Armstrong managed to avoid the trouble but was unhappy when a helicopter, that was being used to film the race, got too close to the lead riders.

"When it's that windy, the last thing you need is a big wind machine on top of you... it's not safe," said Armstrong, who is making his comeback to professional racing after retiring in 2005.

"Also, it's a little nauseating listening to that thing all day long, no offence to helicopters.

"For the little guys, with the (lightweight) rims these days and with the big gusts, the next stop is New Zealand for them," he said.

Armstrong, 37, announced he was making a comeback this year to promote cancer awareness but has been so pleased with his initial progress that he is already thinking about racing again next season.

Although he did not figure in the placings in any of the three stages so far, he briefly led Wednesday's second stage and was part of a 14-man group that broke away from the main peleton yesterday.

"I felt pretty good, it was a strong group, so you had to have decent legs just to make the group.

"It wasn't a random breakaway, there was some horsepower in there," he said.


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