Cycling: Armstrong needs to step on pedal

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The Independent Online

Lance Armstrong added another five hour, 150-mile segment of his build-up for his final Tour de France yesterday in the Dauphiné Libéré stage race in France - but you would have been forgiven for barely noticing. After finishing an anonymous 79th in the stage's final bunch sprint here, the six-time Tour winner scooted into his Discovery Channel team bus without speaking.

Lance Armstrong added another five hour, 150-mile segment of his build-up for his final Tour de France yesterday in the Dauphiné Libéré stage race in France - but you would have been forgiven for barely noticing. After finishing an anonymous 79th in the stage's final bunch sprint here, the six-time Tour winner scooted into his Discovery Channel team bus without speaking.

It was as if Armstrong had never been there, but the Texan is well aware that he has to show some demonstration of strength in the eight-day Dauphiné Libéré - his last warm-up race before the Tour - to start this July with the psychological upper hand.

Short of racing this year - his current 2005 tally is an almost risible 12 days with no wins so far - Armstrong turned in a strong, but unremarkable, fifth place in the Dauphiné's opening prologue event on Sunday. "It's hard to say how I am exactly because I haven't raced since the Tour of Georgia [in late April]," Armstrong said.

That is something of an understatement: in 2004 Armstrong finished a respectable fourth overall, but on the gruelling 16-mile time trial up Mont Ventoux he suffered a stinging defeat.

This Thursday Armstrong will tackle Ventoux again on stage five, but he has already said he is keener to do well in the previous day's 30-mile time trial. A victory would prove a timely warning to his Tour opponents that all is well in the Armstrong camp.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for 'Cycling Weekly'

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