By Mike Gladu
Lance Armstrong (Mellow Johnny's) claimed another victory in his second public appearance since formally announcing his return to professional competition, this time on the mountain bike at the Rocky Hill Roundup, Texas Cup Series Finals in Smithville last Sunday. The Texas Cup Finals were an opportunity for the former Tour de France winner to get in an intense workout close to home in the Central Texas Hill Country.
After a dusty start Armstrong managed to avoid a crash on the opposite side of the formation and settled into 10th position as the group funneled into the single-track. A mix of twisty single-track in the woods, speedy fire roads and a few moderate climbs populated the nine mile cycling ranch trail. The pace immediately went ballistic as the lead group of Brian Fawley (Park Place Lexus), Armstrong and Scott Henry (Trek/VW) developed quickly, with Mitch Comardo (Bike Barn / Gary Fisher) staying close behind.
The top three were nose to tail on the short climbs and single-track by lap two, while Comardo was losing a bit of ground on his unsuspended 29er single speed. Trading pulls evenly, Armstrong noted that whatever advantage Fawley and Henry had in tighter sections he made up for in the open fields toward the finish of the loop.
Seeing a few second gap opening up to Henry, and Fawley losing contact behind that, Armstrong took advantage of the fast section at the start of the third loop to open up a 30 second lead heading out onto the ranch trail.
Fawley dropped back into third while Henry kept the gap to Armstrong under a minute, and Comardo dropped back almost six minutes, still solidly in fourth. Henry marveled at the Tour champion's performance. "It's hard to compete with such a big motor," he said.
Armstrong completed the 27 miles fastest while Henry claimed second 48 seconds back and Fawley claimed the series title with third at nearly three minutes. Comardo was second overall in the series, thanks to his fourth place more than six minutes behind.
Armstrong is still looking to race close to home, but he gets down to business soon with the Astana team camp in the Canary Islands, November 30 - December 8.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Rocky Hill Roundup.