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Sunday, June 13, 2004
Armstrong settles for fourth place

Reuters

GRENOBLE, France -- Spain's Iban Mayo won the eight-day Dauphine Libere cycle race on Sunday, asserting himself as one of Lance Armstrong's main rivals next month in the Tour de France.

The Basque rider, leader of the Euskaltel team, beat another Tour de France favorite, American Tyler Hamilton, by 36 seconds while Spain's Oscar Sevilla was third, 1:03 adrift.

Armstrong, who had won the event the past two years, finished in fourth place, two minutes behind Mayo.

The race was in reality decided on Thursday in a 21.6-km individual time trial at the Mont Ventoux in which the five-time Tour de France winner was unable to match Mayo's pace.

"It was an interesting week," Armstrong said. "I was not as super as I would have wished. It was a tough week too, with super riders like Mayo or Tyler Hamilton.

"I still must improve. But I had no crash, no problem, overall that's good," he added.

Armstrong, who will be bidding for a record sixth Tour de France victory next month, crashed last year when he beat Mayo into second place.

His preparations this year have been hampered by stomach problems.

"There will be no more races [before the Tour]. The Tour is in three weeks, I'm going to train, to focus on my health, maybe lose a little kilo," he said.

Mayo refused to draw conclusions from his victory as regards the Tour.

"I love this race. I won a stage last year and this year. It's a great win but my best victory is still my stage win at l'Alpe d'Huez on the Tour last year.

"The Tour is a different race, with different riders and different ambitions," said Mayo, who finished sixth in last year's Tour.

The last 200-km mountain stage around Grenoble was won by Australian Stuart O'Grady, who broke away with France's Sandy Casar and five other riders almost from the start.

O'Grady, who also won the fifth stage, finished on his own in Grenoble with Casar a few seconds behind.

"It's a great week for me and I thank the whole Cofidis team," said the Australian, who will be one of the favorites for the points classification green jersey on the Tour.

The main bunch, with all the favorites, had decided to take it easy on a sunny Sunday in the Alps and let the breakaways have their day.