Lance Armstrong back at work in cycling, feeling pretty good

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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ADELAIDE, Australia Riding in 40-C heat and in wind that felt like a blast furnace, Lance Armstrong returned to professional cycling and was a long way from his champagne-sipping triumphs in Paris.

The seven-time Tour de France champion finished 120th of 133 riders Tuesday in the six-day Tour Down Under, his first road stage in three years.

Still, Armstrong said he felt pretty good, pretty strong for his first day back at work, although he thought officials were kidding when they told him the opening day of the race was also the easiest.

It was nothing more, they said, than two short hill climbs and a pedal through undulating hill country on the fringe of the wine-growing Barossa Valley outside Adelaide. But the searing heat tested even the fittest riders, almost all of them younger than the 37-year-old cancer survivor.

Its nice to get one under way and tomorrows another hard day, Armstrong said. I want to take it day by day, but I think the early indications are that I feel pretty good, pretty strong.

Germanys Andre Greipel, the winner of last years race, won the first stage by a bike length in a bunched finish. Taking time bonuses into account, he will carry an 11-second lead into Wednesdays 145-kilometre second stage. The race ends Sunday.

Armstrong coasted to the finish near the back of the pack. Unfazed by the heat and the days exertion, the Texan spent 20 minutes talking with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Geographic location: ADELAIDE, Paris, Barossa Valley

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