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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cycling: Armstrong remains third at Tour of Luxembourg

AP Sports Writer

DIEKIRCH, Luxembourg Lance Armstrong doesn't have the legs to win the Tour of Luxembourg and the seven-time Tour de France champion isn't really worried about it.

Armstrong, who is competing in the race as part of his preparations for the Tour de France, held on to third place in the overall standings Saturday after Frenchman Tony Gallopin won the third stage in a sprint finish.

Gallopin edged Italian Giovanni Visconti and Alexandre Geniez of France, while Armstrong finished in the main pack in 22nd place.

The 38-year-old Texan is 30 seconds behind race leader Matteo Carrara, who leads defending champion Frank Schleck by 1 second.

"Again, like yesterday, they showed they are the two best guys in the race," Armstrong said of Carrara and Schleck, who left the American behind when they attacked during Friday's stage. "When they went on the last climb, there was nothing I could do."

Carrara and Schleck again tried their luck in the finale of Saturday's 119-mile ride from Eschweiler to Diekirch, but Armstrong and RadioShack teammate Andreas Kloden organized a chase and the two breakaway riders were quickly caught.

Carrara took the leader's jersey on Friday despite losing a two-man sprint to defending champion Schleck.

"Those two guys were too strong," said Armstrong, who won the Tour of Luxembourg in 1998 after coming back from cancer surgery.

Armstrong's only goal this season is a record eighth win in the Tour, which starts on July 3 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The American now has less than one month to reach his top form. He crashed last month during the Tour of California and missed several race days earlier this season because of illness.

He will next race in the Tour of Switzerland from June 12-20 and said his decision to compete in Luxembourg may have been made at the last minute, but it was a good choice.

"I'm happy with it," said Armstrong, adding that he and RadioShack sports director Johan Bruyneel have discussed the decision every day. "It actually worked out pretty good. I think (it will be helpful). I hope so and I think so."

Asked to assess his form compared to last year at this time, Armstrong refused, saying it was an impossible task.

"Because last year, 12 months ago, I was in Colorado recovering from the Giro, trying to prepare for the Tour, having a baby so there's really no comparison."

Armstrong added that he will scout out the "important" stages of the Tour after competing in Switzerland, but didn't elaborate.

During Saturday's stage, a group of five riders broke away shortly after the start and built a lead of up to four minutes.

Freddy Bichot accelerated away from the group when it entered the first of three loops around Diekirch, about 18 miles from the finish. The Frenchman held on up the Broderbour climb, a short but steep ascent, while his four breakaway companions were reined in.

The main pack caught Bichot about nine miles from the finish.

"It was very warm and never flat," Armstrong said. "They picked every hill in Luxembourg here today, but it was a good day."

The final stage Sunday is a 93-mile run from Mersch to Luxembourg.