21 Jan 2009

Armstrong back near the rear in Tour Down Under

6:09 am on 21 January 2009

Lance Armstrong finished near the back of the field on the opening day of the Tour Down Under in south Australia.

The seven-times Tour de France winner was content to ride in the back half of the peloton and keep out of trouble on the 140-kilometre stage in the hills north of Adelaide.

Armstrong finished 120th of the 133 starters but had the same time as the winner, Germany's Andre Greipel.

He says it was tough going in the heat but he handled the hills well and felt strong.

The stage was Germany's defending champion Greipel, who beat Australia's Stuart O'Grady and Baden Cooke in a dramatic finish in which Australia's sprint specialist Robbie McEwen collided with a spectator's camera and hurt his arm..

Tim Gudsell was the best placed New Zealander, finishing eighth riding for Francaise Des Jeux.

Today's 145 kilometre second stage is considered the toughest of the six and the one most likely to suit Armstrong but the American says he's unlikely to make a serious bid to win.