Lance Armstrong may have finished in eleventh place in the Tour de Suisse time trial, but the Team RadioShack rider nevertheless jumped to second overall in the final classification.
He ended the nine-day ProTour race twelve seconds behind Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank), who racked up the best time trial of his career in the 26.9 kilometre test in Liestal.
It is Armstrong’s top result since taking a podium finish in last year’s Tour de France, and the 38-year-old was pleased with the effort.
“I went as hard as I felt that I could go,” he told journalists after the stage. “I think the conditions changed a little bit for some of us later guys, but certainly for Frank and I and Gesink and the other guys, they were similar. It was a hard TT, it was relentless. It gradually went up the whole way and there was no recovery, apart from the downhill.
“My sensations were good. Probably not related to the result, but I felt solid on the bike, I felt comfortable. Like I said, it was a hard one. There was no real rest, I was pedalling the whole way.”
Race leader Robert Gesink never got into the right rhythm and ultimately ended the TT back in 40th place, dropping to fifth overall. Armstrong said he was surprised by that, and also by the victory of Frank Schleck. In fact, he said that Schleck himself was taken aback to hear the news.
“It was unexpected. Speaking to Frankie, he said that he got on the bus and his team-mate said, ‘hey, dude, you are going to win.’ He was like, ‘whaaat?’
“[Personally] I can’t complain, I felt pretty good. If you lose by eleven or twelve seconds, you always think ‘what could I have done differently? But there is no question that Frank is riding very well. We saw him being very strong in Luxembourg and here he was a factor in the race every day. He was certainly a big animator on the stage over the Albulapass.”
Armstrong has struggled at times this year but as the Tour de France approaches, he is more convinced that he is on track. “I have to be pleased,” he said. “If you think about it, I was third in Luxembourg, second here…I’ll do the math in the next race.”
He then contrasted the Tour de Suisse to the Dauphiné Libéré, where current Tour de France champion Alberto Contador competed, winning the stage to Alpe d’Huez and netting second overall. He suggested that there was little comparison between the two events.
“If we look at the field that was here, on all levels, the climbers, the sprinters, the roleurs, if you look at the course and the speed that we went, then if you compare that to the alternative race, this race was stacked,” he claimed. “This was the virtual field of the Tour. Granted there were some guys missing, but for the most part this race attracted most of the favourites. It is a good indication of what is coming up. I just have to stay healthy and try to get that extra one percent. It will be close.”
Armstrong is correct that several big Tour contenders were here in Swizerland, but quite a few who will fight for the podium were also missing. Amongst those who competed elsewhere were Contador and Denis Menchov, who did the Dauphiné, as well as the Giro d’Italia entrants Ivan Basso, Vincenzo Nibali, Carlos Sastre and Bradley Wiggins. So while the Tour de Suisse podium finish is an encouraging sign, it won’t be until the Tour itself before a clearer picture emerges.
Given his twelve second deficit to Scleck in the final GC, it was put to Armstrong that the time he lost to the other GC riders in finishing in 44th place in the stage one time trial could otherwise have won him the race. He said it was possible, but felt that there is little point in looking back and thinking about what might have been.
“In the prologue, I would never have guessed that I would be in this position. Hindsight is 20-20,” he said. “I could go back and change a few things, go a little harder on the way out, take some more risks on the way down and it is a different race. But that is the way the ball bounces.”