Road

Armstrong leads Postal sweep at Algarve TT

Lance Armstrong fought through a brisk headwind to claim victory in Saturday’s individual time trial and shot into the overall lead with one day left in the Volta ao Algarve. Racing in the fourth day of his season debut, the five-time Tour de France champion edged U.S. Postal Service teammate Floyd Landis by one second in the 24km time trial. “It was very windy. I was surprised to win. I started too fast and I paid the price in the end,” said Armstrong, who finished in 31 minutes, 53 seconds (45.165 kph). “I rode with the SRM, started with big watts, finished with small watts. It’s always

By Andrew Hood

Photo: Graham Watson

Lance Armstrong fought through a brisk headwind to claim victory in Saturday’s individual time trial and shot into the overall lead with one day left in the Volta ao Algarve.

Racing in the fourth day of his season debut, the five-time Tour de France champion edged U.S. Postal Service teammate Floyd Landis by one second in the 24km time trial.

“It was very windy. I was surprised to win. I started too fast and I paid the price in the end,” said Armstrong, who finished in 31 minutes, 53 seconds (45.165 kph). “I rode with the SRM, started with big watts, finished with small watts. It’s always tricky. It was point-to-point and I was just trying to hide as much as I could.”

Landis finishes just one second back

Landis finishes just one second back

Photo: Graham Watson

Postal swept the top-three positions as Colombian Victor Hugo Peña took third at 12 seconds slower and five Postal riders hogged the top 10, with Michael Barry (+0:40) seventh and George Hincapie taking 10th (+0:48) in the time trial.

U.S. Postal Service sport director Johan Bruyneel said he was surprised Armstrong pulled off the victory. The Belgian expected Landis or Peña to win.

“It’s not bad for someone who’s been eating doughnuts all winter,” Bruyneel said. “It’s a very long time trial for the first one of the year. Lance rode very smart. He didn’t go too hard and he always maintained a good rhythm. I didn’t expect Lance to race so well.”

With girlfriend Sheryl Crow taking snapshots as Armstrong mounted his first podium of the 2004 season, Armstrong was the star attraction along Portugal’s sunny southern coast. Huge, enthusiastic crowds lined the course to cheer the Texan as he begins his quest at a record sixth Tour victory.

Armstrong fidgeted on the bike somewhat, adjusting his suit and occasionally kicking out his knee as his cadence hit 110 on the flats.

“I always play with the chamois because I like to get the chamois in the right place,” he said. “It’s a personal weird thing I do.”

Armstrong rode his standard U.S. Postal carbon-fiber time trial bike but showed a modified handlebar and elbow position. He also rode a new full-body suit and hard-shell helmet, both of which will undergo further changes before the Tour.

“The bike the felt good. We still have some changes we have to make,” Armstrong said. “It was a good first test.”

Bruyneel said the team now will fight to defend the jersey and take the outright victory, but Sunday’s challenging finale with a Category 2 summit finish provides a tough test.

“We came here to train, but the team from the first day has been riding very well. The first three days ended in a sprint and now we’re in a good position,” Bruyneel said. “We didn’t come here with the idea to win, but we’ll study the route tonight. Tomorrow is a hard stage.”

The 178km stage hits a Cat. 3 climb at 57km and heads up the Cat. 2 summit at Malhao at 80km. The course makes a loop and hits another unrated climb at 145km before finishing atop the Malhou summit after a 2.5km climb.

Armstrong said Landis will be the man for the team.

“Floyd is mad at me,” Armstrong joked. “But I think Floyd is probably the leader for tomorrow because he’s in much better condition for the climbs. I don’t know the climb, but he’s climbing much better than I am and I suspect we’ll work for him.”

Photo: Graham Watson

30th Volta ao Algarve (UCI 2.3)
Stage 4, Vila Real San Antonio to Tavira, 24km1. Lance Armstrong (USA), USPS, 24km in 31:53 (45.165 kph)
2. Floyd Landis (USA), USPS+0:01
3. Victor Hugo Peña (Col), USPS+0:12
4. Thomas Dekker (Ned), Rabobank+0:19
5. Jimmy Engoulvent (F), Cofidis+0:30Overall after four stages1. Lance Armstrong (USA), USPS, 13:22:55
2. Floyd Landis (USA), USPS+0:01
3. Victor Hugo Peña (Col), USPS+0:12
4. Thomas Dekker (Ned), Rabobank+0:19
5. Jimmy Engoulvent (F), Cofidis+0:30

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