Lance Armstrong kicked off the Tour de Gruene's 25th anniversary celebration in Gruene, Texas with a dominating victory in the newly expanded two-day event's opening individual time trial on Saturday.
Armstrong, 37, finished with a race-best 33:14 for the 16-mile circuit, almost two minutes faster than his nearest competitor, Erick Benz, but he was still critical of his performance. "Overall I would say I was moderately pleased," Armstrong told the San Antonio Express. "I wasn't ecstatic."
"I wasn't really sure what to expect," Armstrong said. "Oh man, the crowds were super. It's hard suffering through the race but when you have people there being supportive, it makes the suffering a little more bearable."
Armstrong is no stranger to the Tour de Gruene having participated on two prior occasions under more trying circumstances: once in 1996 following his cancer diagnosis, partnered with the legendary Eddy Merckx and again in 1997, Armstrong's first ride after his cancer recovery, partnered with Cofidis teammate Kevin Livingston.
The previous 24 editions of the Tour de Gruene consisted solely of a two-man team time trial but this year's event increased to two days with an opening individual time trial. Armstrong will be partnered with long-time Texas friend John Korioth in the Sunday's 27.3 mile team time trial.
When asked about his plans for competing in the 2009 Tour de France, the seven-time Tour champion remained undecided. "I don't think it's a green light or a red light," said Armstrong. "There's no deadline [for a decision]. We're going to look at the season and [look at] two things: first, my international cancer plan and second, my season and preparation."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of Lance Armstrong's comeback
January 18, 2009 - Armstrong announces start of Catlin's drug testing programme
January 8, 2009 - Armstrong impresses Carmichael prior to Tour Down Under
January 7, 2009 - Armstrong believes Team Astana can dominate Tour
December 10, 2008 - Merckx: Armstrong's return good for cycling and Giro
December 8, 2008 - Armstrong climbs Teide
December 6, 2008 - Rast on life with Armstrong
December 5, 2008 - Armstrong considers Tour of Ireland
December 5, 2008 - Armstrong: Contador is the best
December 4, 2008 - Horner unites with Armstrong despite past differences
December 3, 2008 - Armstrong and Contador ride separate paths towards Tour
December 2, 2008 - Armstrong surfs with Astana
December 2, 2008 - Armstrong plans to race Tour
December 1, 2008 - Armstrong's anti-doping testing program pending
November 23, 2008 - Media out of love with Armstrong?
November 22, 2008 - Andreu caught up in Armstrong fight again
November 19, 2008 - Armstrong concerned about Tour safety
November 17, 2008 - Armstrong to meet with ASO
November 9, 2008 - Armstrong racing in Texas again
November 7, 2008 - Exclusive Armstrong wind tunnel video
November 7, 2008 - Lance Armstrong speaks at Web 2.0 conference
November 6, 2008 - Carmichael dials in Armstrong's comeback training
November 5, 2008 - Armstrong looking for balance
November 5, 2008 - Photos from Armstrong's wind tunnel test
November 3, 2008 - Armstrong doubles up and heads to wind tunnel