Sport in brief: Armstrong's powerful finish keeps hopes of victory in Ireland alive

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The Independent Online

The Tour of Ireland may be the last road-race of a gruelling season for 37-year-old comeback star Lance Armstrong, but the Texan showed in yesterday's first stage that he is determined to bow out with a flourish.

The American was an unexpected member of a front group of just two dozen riders that sheared off the bunch close to the finish in Waterford and gained over two minutes on the main pack.

The American finally finished 23rd behind stage-winner Russell Downing of the CandiTV squad, tired after 196 kilometres of hell-for-leather racing along narrow, twisting Irish country lanes but with his hopes of overall victory very much intact.

"It was up/down/left/right/windy today," Armstrong said later on his Twitter feed. "I felt like I was breathing through a straw, a very small straw."

Second in the Tour of Ireland last year, Downing said that Armstrong's Astana squad had been partly responsible for the brutal increase in speed that had shattered the race in the final hour.

"Astana was one of the teams that did it," the Yorkshireman commented, "but I was able to hang on and come through for the win."

Alasdair Fotheringham

Murray shows fighting spirit to set up semi with Federer

The world’s top two will meet in the Cincinnati Masters semi-finals after Roger Federer and Andy Murray won contrasting matches yesterday. Top seed Federer cruised past Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-4 while the holder Murray had to battle back to beat Frenchman Julien Benneteau 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Federer and second-ranked Murray have met eight times before, the Scot winning six. “He [Murray] has been more or less the best player in the world on hard courts this year,” Federer said. “I know it’s going to be a very tough match. I just have to come out with my game plan and hope it works.”

Murray, chasing back-to-back Masters Series titles after his win in Montreal last weekend, recovered from a set and 2-0 down to take his winning run to eight matches. “I played a really poor first set,” said the world No 2. “I served really badly. When you can come through matches like that, it’s a lot better. Everyone can win when they play good tennis.”

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