By Andrew Hood
Lance Armstrong wanted a long, hard day at the office and that’s what he got in Saturday’s Milan-San Remo.
In his first race back on European roads since winning the 2005 Tour de France, Armstrong lost contact with the fast-charging peloton near the top of the Cipressa climb with about 25km to go.
A lead group of about 40 riders stayed clear to fight for the victory while the seven-time Tour champion — racing for the first time since the conclusion of Tour of California on Feb. 22 — crossed the line in 125th at 8:19 in the second group.
Astana sport director Dirk Demol said the goal for Armstrong was to put a long day of racing into his legs as part of his training program to get ready for his top goals at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.
“It was normal because Lance has been without competition for over a month. This is a race for riders who preparing especially for San Remo,” Demol said. “It was a perfect race to do 300km at race speed. This race and Castilla y León are to prepare for the Giro (d’Italia).”
Armstrong told several journalists at the line that the race was “fast” and then rode to the Astana team bus, parked nearly one kilometer down the road.
He spoke briefly with a waiting reporter from La Gazzetta dello Sport, then drove away in a team car to Nice, France, where he was planning to shower, have a massage and eat dinner before traveling to Spain on Sunday for the Monday start of the five-day Castilla y León.
“What a race. Fast, crazy, but great,” Armstrong said in a Twitter update. “My legs felt good. Bad position at the start of the Cipressa, so my day was done.”
“Good to get close to 190 miles on the bike, too. Damn, that’s far,” Armstrong wrote on Twitter. “Congrats to Cavendish on a spectacular win. Cool kid.”
The five-day Castilla y León race in northern Spain will provide Armstrong with more challenging terrain, including two mountain stages and an individual time trial.
Armstrong’s record at Milan-San Remo
1993 – 22nd
1994 – 94th
1995 – 73rd
1996 – 11th
1999 – 118th
2000 – 108th
2002 – 44th
2009 – 125th