Belarus' Siutsou captures Stage 8
BERGAMO, Italy -- Lance Armstrong and his teammates have not faded away. Only their jerseys have.
After losing time all week in climbs and steep descents, Armstrong stayed with the chasing pack on a short uphill stretch in the eighth stage of at the Giro d'Italia on Saturday and teammates Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner attacked.
For the second consecutive day, eight of the nine Astana riders protested not being paid for two months by wearing shirts with the names of sponsors faded.
"Legs finally felt a bit better today. Team Faded was amazing," Armstrong wrote on his Twitter feed.
Kanstantsin Siutsou of Belarus won the stage with a late solo breakaway, and Danilo Di Luca of Italy added eight seconds to his overall lead by finishing third.
Siutsou, winner of the under-23 race at the 2004 world championships, darted from the lead pack with 10 miles to go. On a course that began in Morbegno and finished near Milan, Siutsou completed the 130 miles in 5 hours, 4 minutes, 34 seconds.
"This is the best win of my career," said Siutsou, who lives near Bergamo. "Even better than when I won the amateur world title. It's better because my wife was watching me at the finish and gave me a hug."
Di Luca leads Thomas Lovkvist of Sweden by 13 seconds in the overall standings, with Michael Rogers of Australia third, 44 seconds back.
Leipheimer was fourth, 51 seconds behind. Armstrong and Leipheimer crossed with the main pack. Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France champion, remained 25th overall, 4:39 behind Di Luca.
Stage 9 on Sunday is a 103-mile circuit in Milan. The first rest day is Monday and the race ends May 31 in Rome.
Armstrong did not speak with reporters after the stage, but Horner acknowledged that Astana's financial crisis has not affected the team's performance.
"Johan [Bruyneel, Astana's team manager] is taking care of that," Horner said. "I'll worry about it the moment we leave the Giro. After that Johan will find us some money from somewhere and take care of all of us or I guess we'll all be looking for jobs, one or the other."
Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway finished runner-up, 21 seconds behind, for his third consecutive top-two finish. Di Luca was next with the same time. The top three finishers received bonuses of 20, 12 and 8 seconds.
The route briefly took riders along Lake Como at the beginning of the stage, and bright sunshine at the finish in Bergamo brought out some of the race's biggest crowds.
Spain's Pedro Horillo Munoz was seriously injured when he tumbled off the road during a fast descent after 45 miles. He was taken by helicopter to a hospital with broken ribs and punctured lungs, causing severe blood loss, as well as fractures in his upper leg, knee and vertebrae. The team said he will be kept in a coma for 24 hours.
"The situation is very serious, but for crashing and falling 60 meters, it is as good as it can be," Rabobank team physician Geert Leinders said.
Leipheimer and Horner attacked with six other riders on a climb 17 miles from the finish. The eight-man group held a 54-second lead at the top of the climb but Di Luca's LPR squad chased them down.
"When Leipheimer attacked, I wasn't worried," Di Luca said. "I didn't panic because the team was riding well."
Bruyneel said the attack was not planned.
"The plan was just to stay with the favorites and stay out of trouble," he said. "But all of a sudden there was this little group and Horner was in there, Rogers was in there and Levi saw that LPR wasn't looking very strong.
"[Levi] made the decision himself to bridge across and I think it was a smart move. With a little bit of luck they could have made it to the finish and took a minute. Who knows? It was a good try without spending so much energy."
As soon as the eight men were caught, Siutsou counterattacked and Armstrong kept pace with the chasing pack.
Armstrong returned this season after 3½ years of retirement and broke his collarbone in March. He is competing in his first Giro.
"He's feeling better and better," Bruyneel said.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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