In his second public appearance since returning to competition, Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong powered his way to victory in a Texas mountain bike race.
Armstrong, who won the seven Tours between 1999 and 2005, is set to make a full return to racing in 2009 with the Astana pro team after retiring three years ago.
This weekend, he completed in the Rocky Hill Roundup in Smithville, the series final of the Texas Fall Cup.
After a dusty start, Armstrong – wearing a black and yellow jersey advertising his shop, Mellow Johnny’s – managed to avoid a crash and settled into 10th place as riders funnelled into the singletrack.
The pace went ballistic and a lead group of Brian Fawley (Park Place Lexus), Armstrong and Scott Henry (Trek/VW) quickly emerged, with Mitch Comardo (Bicycle Sport Shop) staying close behind.
Lap two had the top three nose-to-tail on the short climbs and singletrack, while Comrade lost a bit of ground on his unsuspended 29er single-speed.
‘It’s hard to compete with such a big motor’
Whatever advantage Fawley and Henry had in the tighter sections, Armstrong made up for in the open fields toward the end of the loop.
He took advantage of the fast section at the start of the third loop to open up a 30-second lead and finished the 27-mile course in first place, with a time of 1:52:02.
Henry claimed second, 48 seconds back, while Fawley claimed the series title with third at -2:55 and Comardo came fourth in the race and second in the cup with -6:39.
Henry marvelled at Armstrong’s performance, saying “it’s hard to compete with such a big motor”.
Armstrong showed his intent earlier this month when he won both stages of the two-day Tour de Gruene time trial in Texas.
He is due to join the Astana team camp in the Canary Islands on November 30.
For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com
Results (Cat 1 men):
1 Lance Armstrong (Mellow Johnny’s) 01:52:02
2 Scott Henry (Trek/VW) 01:53:50
3 Bryan Fawley (Park Place Lexus) 01:54:57
4 Mitch Comardo (Gary Fisher 29er) 01:58:41
5 JT Cody (Solar Eclipse) 01:59:27
6 Rick Wetherald (Solar Eclipse) 01:59:43
7 Dan Teaters (Beans & Barley) 02:01:13
8 Noel Reuter (Bicycle Sport Shop) 02:03:22
9 Jimmy Clarke (Bike Barn/Gary Fisher/Subaru) 02:03:34
10 Craig Kunz (Bicycle Sport Shop) 02:05:34
11 Eric Hess (Austin Bikes) 02:06:35
12 Mason Quintana (Austin Bikes) 02:06:54
13 Alex Morgan (Cycle Progression) 02:09:27
14 Sean Ahmadi (CoachAhmadi.com) 02:10:17
15 Kevin Koen (Team Bike Lane) 02:10:27
16 Greg Parham (NRC/Pedalmashers) 02:15:35
17 Marc Mayo (Austin Bikes) 02:15:40
18 Paul Sacket (Hill Country Bicycle Works) 02:17:43