Tour Down Under stage 2: Greipel tightens grip

Armstrong: "The race is far from over"

Germany's Andre Greipel extended his dominance of the Tour Down Under into stage two Wednesday, but a trailing Lance Armstrong warned the race was far from over.

The HTC-Columbia rider produced a trademark sprint finish to beat the pack narrowly for the second day running, maintaining his 100 percent record and boosting hopes of adding to his 2008 title.

Greipel, back after a high-speed crash ended his title defence last year, showed ice-cool nerves in the Australian heat to inch home ahead of Team Sky's Greg Henderson and Katusha's Australian rider Robbie McEwen.

"I'm surprised how tired I am today," Greipel. "In the end it was like the finish two years ago. I waited a long time again (before starting the sprint) and we won again."

HTC-Columbia and Sky, a rich new British team, were again at the forefront as they clawed back a three-man breakaway's 11-minute lead by the final section of the picturesque, 134 kilometre (90 mile) stage from Gawler to Hahndorf.

Greipel, 27, has only failed to win four Tour Down Under stages including last year's stage three, when he ploughed into a parked police motorbike and missed four months with shoulder surgery.

He said he would not let down his guard on Thursday's hilly and demanding stage four, with New Zealand's Henderson lurking second overall in Sky's debut road race.

"We want to run a good race, and that's what we're doing," Greipel said. "I won't relax tomorrow, I'll work hard for the next stage."

Armstrong, who has played down his chances here as he works towards an eighth Tour de France title in the second year of his comeback, admitted Greipel was in pole position but pointed out some tough challenges ahead.

"It's never over. You've got a finish like tomorrow, you've got Willunga (stage 5), you've got some hard days. So no, it's not (over)," said the American.

"He's obviously showing great form, he's been here for weeks, probably doing some racing and some intense training. He's definitely the man to beat."

He warned all riders would feel the pace on Thursday with an arduous uphill finish and temperatures forecast to hit 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit).

Armstrong, who claimed his record seven Tour de France titles in consecutive years from 1999 to 2005, finished in the pack to trail Greipel by 20 seconds overall, alongside Australian world road champion Cadel Evans.

"I remember being in a little break (last year) and paying the price,"

Armstrong said. "It's a painful finish, no two ways about it. Everybody in the bike race tomorrow is going to suffer."

The Tour Down Under, raced over 800 kilometres (500 miles) around Adelaide, is the southern hemisphere's biggest race. The sixth and final stage is on Sunday.

© AFP 2010

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