PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
The crowds were disappointed, Lance Armstrong was disappointed. At last year's Dodge Tour de Georgia, Armstrong blasted around exactly the same time trial course in 39-51, beating second-placed Jens Voigt by 22 seconds. This year, his ninth place on Thursday's third stage was achieved in 41-44, without having had to ride a morning stage like last year - which he also won - but on a wet and slippery course, on which he was unwilling to take risks.
"Clearly I'm disappointed," Armstrong said. "I didn't feel great, but I thought I'd do a better ride than that. I'm disappointed and it clearly shows I have some work to do. Sometimes, it's nice to set a benchmark, whether it's a good one or a bad one. Clearly, I didn't set a very good one today."
After a good showing at the Tour of Flanders at the beginning of April where Armstrong finished 28th, just over two minutes down on winner Tom Boonen, it was widely thought, apparently also by Armstrong himself, that he was back on track for July, having had to pull out of March's Paris-Nice early with a cold.
"Last year, I definitely got a jump on fitness, and this year I was way behind. I thought I'd caught up, but like I said, now I know I haven't, and now it's time to re-evaluate the season," said Armstrong. "We've got about two-and-a-half months [until the Tour de France], so we just have to improve from here. It means gaining fitness and losing weight, and focusing on every little aspect of the sport - the diet, the bike, the training, the team. I think they are even a little bit behind, so we've got work to do."
The next two days will be decisive at the Tour de Georgia, both in terms of who will stand on top of the podium in Atlanta on Sunday, and to see whether Armstrong can test himself against his rivals for July - race leader Floyd Landis (Phonak), CSC's Bobby Julich and Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner). "If we still have ambitions to try to win, we have to be aggressive," Armstrong said.
"We'll just play it by ear. Now the race is on the shoulders of Phonak and CSC, and we'll just be secondary players and see if we can mix things up a little."