Lance Armstrong finishes farewell race
ADELAIDE, Australia -- Lance Armstrong finished his last race outside the United States in 65th place out of 129 riders in the Tour Down Under, refusing to speak to reporters afterward on Sunday as he did not want to discuss the latest doping allegations.
Cameron Meyer of Australia won the race on general classification by 2 seconds over countryman Matthew Goss, while Britain's Ben Swift was third overall after winning the final stage. Meyer rides for the U.S. team Garmin-Cervelo and Goss for U.S.-based HTC-Highroad.
Hours after the race ended, Garmin-Cervelo fired competition director Matt White for having violated team policy by sending a former rider to an outside physician. White referred Trent Lowe to Valencia, Spain-based Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral in April 2009 for testing. Del Moral has been linked to several doping controversies in the past and was named in Floyd Landis' allegations about organized doping on the U.S. Postal Service team from 2002-04. The doctor has denied any role in doping.
Team manager Jonathan Vaughters said the team felt obligated to dismiss White after recently learning of the incident but added there was no evidence that anything illegal had transpired between del Moral and Lowe.
Armstrong finished 103rd in the 91-kilometer (56-mile) sixth stage around the streets of Adelaide and ended his farewell race 6 minutes, 42 seconds behind the winner.
An Armstrong associate passed a message to The Associated Press during Sunday's final stage that Armstrong would not speak to reporters because he felt some had pressed him too strongly on new drug allegations reported this week by Sports Illustrated.
Armstrong had consistently refused to comment on those allegations, though he Tweeted on Friday that he looked forward to being vindicated by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
He brushed past reporters waiting for him to leave the victory podium on which he had received a presentation from the Premier of South Australia, Mike Rann. Armstrong was recognized for his participation in the Tour Down Under over the past three years, during which was largely responsible for boosting the race's domestic and international profile.
Armstrong graciously received a gift of a pair of locally made hiking boots, joked with the premier and profusely thanked fans for their support of him and the race he chose for his comeback to road cycling in 2009.
"We [cyclists] travel all over the world and we don't see crowds like this and we don't see atmosphere like this," he said to cheers.
"This rivals the Tour [de France], the Giro [d'Italia] and all the big races."
Fans carried signs saying "Thanks for the memories Lance" and "Lance, y'all come back now ya hear", reflecting his popularity for his contribution to the race and state. A new cancer research facility in Adelaide bears the name of his Livestrong Foundation.
Meyer finished 20th on the final stage, credited with the same time as Swift, who won his second stage of the tour, and defended the overall lead he held for the last three stages. He led Goss by 8 seconds at the start of the final stage and was able to hold off the late challenge of his Australian rival, despite Goss' desperate efforts and those of his Highroad teammates.
More than 772,000 fans watched the six stages of the Tour, a record for a sports event in South Australia. The race is the first of the 2011 UCI WorldTour season.
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com's Bonnie D. Ford was used in this report.
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