Originally created 04/23/04

U.S. star edges to victory



ROME, Ga. - The country has watched Lance Armstrong for three days. Now other Tour de Georgia riders will too.

Armstrong shoved his wheel ahead of Cuban Ivan Dominguez at the finish line Thursday and won Stage 3 by an axle in downtown Rome with a time of 2 hours, 41 minutes and 43 seconds for the 77-mile stage.

But Armstrong, the Texan who has won five straight Tour de France races, didn't have much time to enjoy his stage win. He had to race in the individual time trial, an 18-mile stage that was set to conclude the Tour's only double-stage day at 7:15 p.m.

"I was surprised to win," Armstrong said. "When I finished, I was thinking about tonight actually."

After finishing in the middle of the pack in Stages 1 and 2, Armstrong surprised Dominguez when he came around him in the last 100 meters.

"When he came around me I thought, 'Now we're going to have to start worrying about you, too,' " the Cuban sprinter said.

When U.S. Postal Service teammate George Hincapie moved to the front of the pack in the second of the three-lap circuit finale, the surprise began to fade. Hincapie, a three-time Olympian from Greenville, S.C., who has helped keep Armstrong at the front of each of his Tour de France victories, swung to the side at the finish line and came in fourth.

Armstrong was fifth heading into the last lap.

"If I had been in 10th position, I wouldn't have gone for it," he said. "That was no plan. We knew the circuit was hard and we wanted to stay in front. But it was not a plan to try and win the stage."