Lance Armstrong: 'He deserved to win'

Updated: February 13, 2012, 8:48 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

New Zealander Bevan Docherty says he was snubbed by Lance Armstrong after winning the Panama half ironman on Sunday and knocking the seven-time Tour de France winner into second place in his first professional triathlon.

Docherty beat Armstrong by 31 seconds after overtaking the American on the running leg of the event, which was raced in searing heat in Panama City, not far from the western entrance to the Panama Canal.

[+] EnlargeArmstrong
AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco"I played it conservative -- I knew he was going to have to make a big effort to catch me," Lance Armstrong said of the Panama triathlon winner. "He caught me."

An Olympic silver medalist, Docherty told New Zealand media that Armstrong brushed past him at the finish line without offering congratulations, but later briefly shook his hand and acknowledged his victory.

"I'm not sure what it was all about. I can only assume he was just disappointed to get beaten," Docherty said.

"I did shake his hand a little bit later. He's on a completely different level and planet to us guys [triathletes]," Docherty said. "It's great to have him in the sport, he certainly adds something. It's an eye-opener to see how he gets mobbed and the chaos around him."

Armstrong didn't address Docherty's reaction in an interview on the event's website, but did say Docherty "deserved to win."

"I'd rather get second than walk home and get seventh," Armstrong said. "I played it conservative -- I knew he was going to have to make a big effort to catch me -- he caught me."

Docherty said he was surprised Armstrong didn't dominate the race's 55-mile cycling leg.

"I thought Lance would absolutely cream us on the bike, but he was probably in a similar position to me where he wasn't too sure how to pace himself," he said. "He certainly looked like he was holding back and that was probably why he ran so well off the bike."

Armstrong led Docherty after the cycling, but the New Zealander made up ground on the 16½-mile running leg and passed Armstrong about 1½ miles from the finish.

"I think the one takeaway is the bike," Armstrong said. "It is much different than I thought. Even though this is an individual discipline, and an individual sport, there's more to it than that and you have to factor that in.

"You read about it, you hear about it, you see it in Kona," Armstrong said of the iconic Hawaii Ironman. "You have to be consistent with your effort because you still have to run."

I don't need a job, so I need a challenge in my life. I need some stuff to do. I like to train, I like to suffer a bit.

-- Lance Armstrong

Armstrong began his career as a triathlete before switching to cycling and winning seven successive Tours de France.

"It's great that I could hold one up for the other triathletes and show that it's certainly not a sport that you can just walk into and dominate straight away," Docherty told the New Zealand Herald. "It's quite an honor to see a seven-time Tour de France winner and someone you admire standing in second place below you on the podium. It's a highlight of my career."

Federal authorities decided Feb. 3 that Armstrong would not be charged after a two-year probe into accusations he and his cycling teammates systematically used performance-enhancing drugs.

"I don't need a job, so I need a challenge in my life," Armstrong said. "I need some stuff to do. I like to train, I like to suffer a bit. It's great to be back. This sport has changed a lot. Back when I raced, I did Olympic distance races and sprint races. It was a very different game back then. Not better, not worse, just different."

Armstrong said he was taken by surprise by the cycling portion of the event.

"The ride was harder than I expected," Armstrong said. "Obviously, it started to get warmer and it was windy and the run was just an oven. I did what I could and stuck with my pace and I just didn't have enough in the end."

Armstrong said he trained hard in preparation for the run.

"I have been running a lot," he said. "It's no secret that's the way you're competitive here. That's the way you win races. I said the other day, I think you ride for show and run for dough, and I mean it. At one point in my life I was a decent runner, so I just need to get back and rediscover that. I need to stick with it, get the repetition in, lose some weight, work on my stride, stay consistent and stay injury free."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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