WEST DOVER, Vt. (AP) -- Bicyclist Lance Armstrong, riding in his
first major U.S. competition since winning the Tour de France,
placed sixth Friday in the national championships of mountain
Armstrong rode a strong race, leading the event about midway
through. But the regular mountain bicyclists showed their
experience in some of the technical riding on single-track trails
in the woods surrounding the Mount Snow resort.
"It was a lot harder than I thought," Armstrong said after the
race, surrounded by fans begging for his autograph.
Roland Green of Victoria, British Columbia, came on strong in
the final 8 miles of the race and convincingly won the finals of
the Chevy Trucks National Off-Road Bicycling Association National
Green crossed the finish line of the nearly 24-mile race in
2:12:07, more than three minutes ahead of sixth-place Armstrong.
Second place went to Travis Brown of Boulder, Colo., who
finished 49 seconds behind Green. He was followed across the finish
line by Luke Stockwel of Australia, who was 1 minute, 15 seconds
behind the winner.
But it was clearly Armstrong that the huge crowd at Mount Snow
turned out to see. He thrilled the bicycling world and won the
hearts of the entire world when he swept to victory in the Tour de
France last month, just three years after recovering from
testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs.
Armstrong described the race as "very, very tough" and said
there was no comparison to his regular regimen of road riding.
He started in the second row of the mass-start race and quickly
surged forward into the top pack of riders. He remained in the top
three positions on the first three laps of the six-lap race, taking
the lead for about a lap. Each lap was 3.8 miles.
But he dropped back about two-thirds of the way through the
race. Several spectators said they saw him brush into a tree on a
small descent. It appeared to knock the wind out of him
momentarily, although he remained on the bike and kept riding.
"I bumped a tree and it threw me off my pace," Armstrong said,
adding that did not affect his riding. "My lack of calories
(did)," he said.
Before the race, Armstrong said it was not particularly unusual
for him to be riding a mountain bike race because he does that in
the off season in his adopted hometown of Austin, Texas.
"This fits into what I consider my job, which is racing
bicycles," he said.