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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | CYCLING

It's Tour de Bronze for Armstrong in Time Trial

September 30, 2000|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYDNEY, Australia — The fourth anniversary of the day Lance Armstrong was first diagnosed with the testicular cancer that nearly killed him is Monday.

His friends and family, wife Kristen and baby son Luke, gather to commemorate the anniversary in exotic locales, and this year the setting will be Sydney. Armstrong had hoped to bring two more symbols of his survival--Olympic gold medals from the road race and the individual time trial.

Instead, the token is singular--one medal--and the metal, bronze, isn't quite what the 29-year-old Armstrong wanted. But as much as he had hoped for a bookend to his Tour de France victory in July, his second in a row, it is nothing short of amazing that Armstrong even made it to Australia.

He was injured in a crash with a car near his training base in Nice, France, last month and suffered a fractured vertebrae.

Still, the perfectionist in Armstrong was outweighing the realist in Armstrong.

"I'd hoped to make it a double celebration. I came to win the gold medal," he said. "I cannot complain. I went as hard as I could. If I had a problem, I wish could tell you I had a problem--I had a flat or I felt bad or bad in the corners. To me, the ride was . . . I just didn't go as fast as the other two. I'm not going to cry about it."

Winning the gold medal in the men's individual time trial today was Viacheslav Ekimov of Russia in 57 minutes 40 seconds. Eight seconds behind was Jan Ullrich of Germany. Armstrong was third in 58:14. American Tyler Hamilton finished 10th.

Ekimov, whose time trial finished before the other two medalists, had to wait and wonder and worry. He stood at the finish, sipping water and hoping.

"There are still some good riders to go and I will be the happiest man if I win a medal today," he said. "It was the perfect weather for me, although I am a bit disappointed because there was not a lot of wind."

Armstrong's disappointment was tempered in that Ekimov is a teammate on his United States Postal Service cycling team. And the result did not shock him.

"If I said I wasn't surprised, I'd be lying," Armstrong said. "Eky, he is a time trialist, both on the track and on the road. Eky is a lot of things. He's a professional. He is on my team. Day in and day out, we're together. When we go to the races, it's me and him in the room together. And we're great friends."

Maybe it was some sort of cosmic twist after the time they spent together in France during the summer.

"He's a legend of our sport," Armstrong said. "And if you watched the Tour de France, he put it all on the line for me to win the Tour de France. As upset as I am not to win a gold medal, I'm that much happier for him to win one. He is a true champion and a true gentleman."

The wind picked up on the course as the day went on, but Armstrong didn't use that as an excuse.

"It went OK," he said. "Personally, I went as deep as I could and as hard as I could. I wanted to start fast and try and get out a little ahead and try and hold it. The speed that I went out in wasn't even as fast as some of the other guys. So, it was a tight, tight time trial. It hurt.

"It was windy. But if you're asking, if the wind in the third wave was more than the wind in the second wave, I don't want to say that. I was here when the riders in the second wave were riding and it was windy also."

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