Armstromng Retains Tour Lead
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) _ Dutchman Leon van Bon rode to a surprisingly easy stage victory on Saturday and Lance Armstrong retained his race lead in the Tour DuPont.
Van Bon, 24, who rides for the Netherlands-based Rabobank team, bolted to the front of a large sprinting pack just before the final sharp turn about 500 yards from the finish. He claimed the 110.5-mile, Raleigh-to-Greensboro road race by an estimated 40 yards in 4 hours, 37 minutes, 34 seconds.
Radisa Cubric of Yugoslavia (Plymouth) was second with veteran Malcolm Elliott of Britain (Chevrolet-LA Sheriff) third, both two seconds behind the winner.
Armstrong, 24, of Austin, Texas (Motorola), who took the lead with his stage victory Thursday night, finished 41st in the main field, also two seconds behind. He still leads reigning Tour of Italy winner Tony Rominger of Switzerland (Mapei-GB) by 35 seconds. Rominger’s teammate Daniele Nardello of Italy is third, 44 seconds behind.
With the field of 112 facing temperatures in the high 80s and wind gusts over 20 mph, Armstrong rode strategically, often surrounded by his teammates. But on the last of three 3.5-mile finishing circuits, Armstrong went to near the front.
``It was to avoid crashes, of course,″ said Armstrong, the defending titlist and 1993 world road champion. ``My teammates were doing what they do well, and we’re excited.″
Steve Hegg of Dana Point, Calif. (Chevrolet-LA Sheriff) assumed the overall race lead during the stage. The 1984 Olympic pursuit gold medalist built nearly a 2-minute lead while riding on a 30-mile breakaway with Serge Baguet of Belgium (Vlaanderen 2002). But the duo was caught shortly after beginning the final circuits, about nine miles from the finish.
Van Bon, who claimed the seventh stage of the Tour DuPont and finished 28th overall last year, made his winning move suddenly.
``There was a lot of wind and my helpers had been going hard all day,″ said van Bon, who moved into eighth place overall, 1:11 behind. ``I thought maybe I could make it.″
Armstrong and the other contenders for the overall title mostly rode strategically with the first of four straight mountain stages beginning Sunday. The field will ride 112.5 miles from Mount Airy, N.C. to Roanoke, Va., in the fifth stage that includes four medium-sized climbs.
The 1,225-mile trek through six states concludes May 12 with an individual time trial in Marietta, Ga.