Armstrong Is Back

July 7, 2009

After a much anticipated second return to the grueling sport of cycling, Lance Armstrong is in the thick of the 2009 Tour De France.

Armstrong started the 2009 Tour low on the pecking order for team Astana. With heavier favorites on the team such as Andreas Kloden, Levi Leipheimer, and pre-race team leader Alberto Contodor, Armstrong has been forced to accept the lesser role of helper or workhorse for his teammates. But Lance has made it clear that he isn't comfortable with this position.

When asked of his chances of winning the race, Armstrong told reporters, “I may not be as good as I was in 1999 or 2004, but I am better than I was in any of the other years . . . so yes, I am here to win.”

However, it soon became clear that this was no typical year for Armstrong, as he was the first rider from team Astana to do the opening stage. Generally, each team sends its best riders late in the time trial so that they have time splits to gauge their progress.

When asked before Saturday’s Stage 1 time trial about this selection, Armstrong responded that it was something new and that people probably were not used to it. Armstrong acknowledged that team Astana already had several tour-winning riders and that he was comfortable with the team's decision, stating, “I am an old man, I need my rest so it is better I go out early.”

Nevertheless, it was clear that Armstrong did not like his position on the pecking order, as he hinted that “Contodor is our pre-race leader, for now.”

Obviously, Armstrong had other plans.

Stage 1 Wrap-Up

The Stage 1 time trial consisted of a longer than usual 15.5km through Monaco. Armstrong posted the best time of the day at both the intermediate check (00:11:39) and the finish (00:20:12), only to be bested by teammates Contador, Kloden, and Leipheimer, later that day.

Although Armstrong finished a respectable tenth in the stage, he perhaps could have turned in a better time if he would have had the advantage of time splits. Armstrong himself admitted that such splits “are very important in time trials.”

Stage 2 Wrap-Up

The second stage of the Tour De France was a 187km race from Monaco to Brignoles that began with 180 riders. In addition to three intermediate sprints, the stage also featured four categorized climbs.

With 45km to go, team Columbia joined Saxo Bank at the front of the pack. After a crash on the final turn, Briton Mark Cavendish (Columbia) started his sprint quite early – from about 350m out – but was able to hold off a charging Tyler Farrar (GRM) to claim his fifth stage in the Tour De France.

Armstrong and his Astana teammates strode in comfortably with the peloton. Armstrong finished the stage in 80th place. The third stage of the Tour De France, however, was a different story.

Stage 3 Wrap-Up

Amidst all the controversy surrounding his role as a workhorse for team Astana, Armstrong made a strong statement in the 196.5km third stage race from Marseille to La Grande-Motte.

The route was primarily flat, save for two category four hills.

At the beginning of the stage, four riders immediately went on the attack. At the 10km mark, those four riders - Bouet (FDJ), Dumooulin (COF), De Kort (SKS), and Perez Moreno (EUS) - were ahead of the peloton by 08:15:00. Their average speed was an impressive 35.9km/h.

Still, the peloton stayed patient.

With 70km to go, team Columbia moved to the front of the peloton and led the chase. With 30km to go, team Columbia had all nine of its riders positioned to make a move. They increased their pace and caused a split in the peloton.

Armstrong and two of his teammates, Popovych and Zubeldia, then took chase.

With 27km to go, they caught the four escapees, and the front peloton consisted of 29 riders, including Armstrong. Eisel was the only rider in the group to drop out, and the remaining 28 riders finished together with a lead of 40 seconds.

At the sprint to the finish, Cavendish finished ahead of Hushovd. Cancellara retained the yellow jersey after finishing sixth in the stage with leads of 00:00:33 over Martin (THR) and 00:00:40 over Armstrong.

That’s right, Lance Armstrong is in third place going into the fourth stage of the 2009 Tour De France.

With team Astana a favorite in the stage four team time trial, Armstrong could be back in the yellow jersey by the end of tomorrow’s race.

By Sunil Patel
Staff Reporter for

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