Related News

Home » Sports » Cycling

Armstrong solid, Cancellara wins Tour's 1st stage

LANCE Armstrong put in a solid performance in his comeback at the Tour de France yesterday, finishing the first stage ahead of 170 mostly younger riders and a respectable 10th behind winner Fabian Cancellara.

Armstrong's Astana team was dominant in the time-trial through the hills and hairpin turns of Monaco, led by the cyclist who has been billed as the American's heir as Tour titan - Alberto Contador of Spain.

Armstrong, who has a record seven Tour victories, is returning to cycling's showcase race after ending a 3?-year retirement this winter. At 37, he is one of the oldest riders in the pack and had a chance to test his legs and state of mind.

"I was nervous, I was excited, and trying to focus on doing the right race, specifically in terms of starting easy and finishing good," he said. "When I finished, I was tired - yeah, it was a hard race."

Cancellara took the yellow jersey by finishing the 15.5-kilometer (9.6-mile) time trial in 19 minutes, 32 seconds - 18 seconds ahead of Contador, the 2007 Tour winner.

"I didn't expect to win or to take the jersey. I didn't expect a super, super performance," Armstrong said. "It's been a long time since I've had that emotion of being on the start ramp at the Tour."

The race against the clock, in which riders set off one by one down the start ramp, offered an early shakeout of the potential contenders to win the three-week cycling showcase.

Contador showed he was ready.

"Fabian is a great champion ... (but) my form is very good," the 26-year-old Spaniard said. "I must try to keep up this level. I think I have started well."

Contador was forced to sit out last year because of Astana's previous doping problems. He is a far better climber than Cancellara, and the Pyrenees mountains loom in Stage 7.

Contador led four Astana riders in the top 10. Andreas Kloeden of Germany was fourth, American Levi Leipheimer was sixth and rival Armstrong was 40 seconds back in 10th.

Contador got an early edge on other title hopefuls. Two-time Tour runner-up Cadel Evans of Australia was fifth - 23 seconds behind Cancellara; Giro d'Italia winner Denis Menchov trailed 1:31 back, in 53rd place.

Carlos Sastre, the defending Tour champion, was 1:06 behind Cancellara. The 34-year-old Spaniard wanted to wear the yellow jersey, his team said, but Tour organizers have ended the tradition of letting the previous year's champion ride in it for the start after Floyd Landis was stripped of his 2006 title over a doping scandal.

Much has been made of Armstrong's rivalry with Contador, who also stands a chance to become one of cycling's greatest riders. He has already won each of the Grand Tours of France, Italy and Spain - a feat accomplished by only five riders, and not Armstrong.

On his Twitter account, Armstrong hailed Leipheimer's "awesome" ride, but he didn't give an immediate reaction about the performance of Contador.

Armstrong, who rode 18th among the 180 riders to leave the start ramp, took the provisional lead early - baring his teeth and pedaling up out of the saddle as he neared the finish.

Only 15 riders later, Tony Martin of Germany outpaced him. Others also soon bettered Armstrong's time, including Leipheimer and Liquigas rider Roman Kreuziger.

"Kreuziger just moved into 2nd. I raced with his dad! Haha," Armstrong tweeted.

It was clearly an older Armstrong, not the Armstrong of old.

During his reign as Tour champion, Armstrong only once finished lower than third in a time trial, placing seventh in one in 2003.

"My heart rate - it didn't look exactly at the top, probably 196 (beats per minute), so that's as hard as I can go," he said.

In another time trial in 2005, Armstrong outpaced Cancellara by more than a minute.

Cancellara, of the Saxo Bank team, will wear the overall race leader's yellow jersey for today's second stage - a 187-kilometer (16.2-mile) ride across plains from Monaco to Brignoles, France.

"I think maybe in five years there are other riders coming and they will be faster than me. That's cycling - that's time," Cancellara said when asked about Armstrong. "I also get older."


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend