Armstrong finishes stage in main bunch

ADELAIDE, Australia -- Lance Armstrong says his comeback remains on track despite fading from contention in the Tour Down Under after a tough fifth stage Saturday.

Australian Allan Davis won the 92-mile stage, posting his third stage win of the tour, to increase his overall lead to 25 seconds entering Sunday's final, 55-mile stage around Adelaide city streets.

Armstrong finished 23rd Saturday in the same time as the winner. However, he is 29th overall, 49 seconds behind Davis, as he nears the end of his first multistage race in 3½ years.

"I didn't have the needed punch to make a difference, but we were there and, I guess, going in that's what I kind of hoped for, so no complaints," Armstrong said.

Armstrong next rides in the Tour of California which, he said, would be harder than the Australian race -- "longer climbs, steeper climbs.

"After [this] race if you recover properly, get over your trip back home, you might get 10 percent out of it so then I'll be that much stronger."

Armstrong said his performance in the Tour Down Under had fallen somewhere between meeting and exceeding his expectations.

"I was curious," he said. "I could have come in with expectations that could be completely unrealistic, not having the experience the last 3½ years.

"I expected -- just based on training, based on the power I saw in training, based on how I felt after five hours of training -- to be in the first queue on the climbs which, I guess, I can say I was able to do.

"[My comeback] is in the right line. There's still a long ways to go until you guys are really asking too hard questions but I'm pretty happy."

Armstrong said there had been tough days on the tour but he had always expected a comeback at age 37 to be challenging.

"Yesterday [Friday] was tough," he said. "I didn't have a good day yesterday. My legs were screaming at me all day long. Today was a lot easier but that's the way it's going to be, especially getting back into it. You're going to have good days and bad days.

"You've got to just focus on the habits constantly, looking after your rest and recovering well...all the little things that at 37 years old you can't get by like you could when you were 27.