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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cycling: Armstrong says Greipel man to beat in Tour Down Under

AP Sports Writer

ADELAIDE, Australia Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong believes Andre Greipel is the man to beat in the Tour Down Under after the German sprinter won Wednesday's second stage for the United States-based Team Columbia HTC.

Greipel, the 2008 champion, has won the first two stages of the six-stage race to take a 14-second lead over New Zealander Greg Henderson and Gert Steegmans of Armstrong's Team Radioshack.

Armstrong came in 48th in Wednesday's stage, credited with the same time as Greipel, and is 39th overall 20 seconds behind Greipel and one place behind Cadel Evans, the reigning world road racing champion.

Armstrong's former teammate, U.S. road racing champion George Hincapie is 23rd overall, and 2006 Tour de France champion Oscar Pereiro is 75th, 1 minute, 15 seconds behind the race leader.

Armstrong raced prominently in a stage made difficult by the 86-degree heat and a series of steep climbs, then a bunched finish.

"It was not so bad, not as bad as last year," said Armstrong who is competing in the event for the second time. "It's a shock for almost all of us who haven't been racing. Just the intensity. The heat came on today and you just get those little steep walls so all in all not bad."

The second stage between Gawler and Hahndorf, on the outskirts of South Australia state capital Adelaide, unfolded as a replica of Tuesday's first stage.

A group comprising young Australian David Kemp, Frenchman Michael Delage and Belgium's Olivier Kaisen slipped away early in the stage and led by an eventual margin of 11 minutes.

Greipel's Columbia teammates were able to control the peleton as the breakaway group slowly came back to the bunch and Greipel worked into a position from which he could drive past his rivals in a tight sprint.

"I am surprised how tired I am today," Greipel said. "Even with the break we were happy to let it go out to eight minutes or more because we could claw back the time.

"In the end it was like the finish (in Hahndorf) two years ago I waited a long time again before starting my sprint and we won again."

Greipel's win was celebrated in Hahndorf, a village of tightly-packed stone cottages established by German immigrants whose older residents still converse in German.

"That is why we are here, to perform good and its nice to win in a German town," Greipel said.

Armstrong said Greipel was "definitely the man to beat" after his dominance of the first two stages, which were ideally suited to sprinters. Team Radioshack's ambition remained to get a stage win for Steegmans 30th in Wednesday's stage and third overall 14 seconds behind Greipel.

"Andre's showing great form," Armstrong said. "(But) some of the longer stages might wear out the sprinters a bit."

Armstrong said Thursday's third stage from the Adelaide suburb of Unley to Stirling in the Adelaide Hills, which is likely to be raced in hotter temperatures and features a stiff climb to the finish, might diminish the dominance of the sprinters.

"It's not a big explosion, it's more of a slow attrition," he said. "Every kilometer you lose another 20 guys and you don't have many there at the finish.

"It's a painful finish, there's no two ways about it, and everyone in the bike race tomorrow will suffer."