The Tour Down Under got underway yesterday with a fast 30-mile jaunt through Adelaide, Australia that served as a prelude to the race getting properly underway tomorrow. More than 138,000 fans lined the streets to watch hometown favorite Robbie McEwen claim first place of course, but plenty were there to see Lance Armstrong make his return to professional cycling as well.
Lance finished in the middle of the pack, coming in 64th out of 133 riders, as he played it safe and made ready for the real race to get underway tomorrow. His team told him to not put himself into any kind of danger, and stay out of the way of the sprinters, who were jostling for the top spot. McEwen is amongst the best sprinters in the sport, and the short and fast course suited his style perfectly.
For his part, Lance was content to just be back in the peloton, and riding with the others. I doubt that he will press too much in this race, as he’s just getting back into the groove of professional cycling after a three year hiatus. The Tour Down Under will serve as a shake down cruise for bigger and better things to come, such as a run at an 8th Tour de France title. Still, Lance is a very competitive guy, and he didn’t return to cycling to “race for second place”. I wouldn’t be surprised if at the end of the week he’s near the top of the leaderboard, serving notice to the sport that he’s back and ready to roll.
Tomorrow’s first real stage of the TDU is 140 km (86 miles) in length and will have a little something for the sprinters and the climbers. Since this race is only a week long, I’d guess that we’ll see the top competitors begin to make their moves in the early stages as they won’t have too many days to make up ground as they would in the The Tour. Should be a fun event to watch as Lance gets back to work!
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