Armstrong finding Down Under life tough

Lance Armstrong, 37, rides in stage one of the Tour Down Under

Lance Armstrong, 37, rides in stage one of the Tour Down Under (Image credit: AFP)

Tour winner feeling form return

By Greg Johnson in Adelaide, Australia

Lance Armstrong survived his first day at the Tour Down Under, although the American of Team Astana said it was a tough one. He finished back in 120th spot on the 140-kilometre stage, which was won by defending champion André Greipel.

"This was the day that they said was the easy day," he said. "The course, combined with the temperature in the 40s, it was tough. All in all, with the steep hills I feel pretty strong.

"When they get to those bunch sprints I get right out of the way and let those big guys do their thing and hope that they keep the rubber side down. It is nice to get one out of the way. Tomorrow is a hard day and I want to take it day by day, but the early indications are that I feel pretty good and strong. I will see how the recovery is, that is an important thing too."

Armstrong met Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at today's stage. The rider is scheduled to meet with him again this evening to discuss Livestrong's global fight against cancer.

"We have never met, so it is always an honour, not just for myself, but for the race to have him here," said Armstrong. "We talked a little bit about cycling. We talked a little about health care. We talked about the inauguration tonight [of the USA President] and we talked about the fight against cancer. But again I am just honoured that he is here to see this race, not just for myself but for all of us."

Armstrong admitted that the heat in South Australia is brutal on the peloton. The rider believes it will be a big issue on tomorrow's stage, where a difficult climb is expected to combine with high temperatures to take a toll on the peloton.

"It's hot, it is not just a dry heat, it affects performance a lot," he said. "There is no way to perform at a high level when it is 40 degrees. You just cope and drink as much as you can. We drank about 15 of 20 bottles each today.

"I don't know, it's still too early to say – tomorrow's big factor is going to be the heat," he said of his form. "If it's hot like this on a day like tomorrow, when it just rolls all day long, you'll lose 20 guys every lap. Then you'll have a smaller group and something will happen from there, I suspect."

Asked if he will stay up tonight to watch the inauguration of President-elect Barrack Obama, Armstrong said he'll catch it on YouTube in the morning. "But I'm excited and I think everyone in the United States is excited – I see he's polling at 80 per cent approval rating. I wish I had those approval numbers."

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