DAHLONEGA, Ga. - Lance Armstrong made the most of a ninth-place finish Friday.
The 32-year-old Texan maintained his slim overall lead over Jens Voigt after the fifth stage of the Tour de Georgia.
Armstrong raced from Dalton to Dahlonega in 5 hours, 41 minutes, 9 seconds on Friday, keeping his lead over Voigt for a second straight day at .24 seconds.
"The climbs weren't very hard, but the undulations early on - every time you turned a corner, there was another half-mile hill," Armstrong said. "You do 50 of them and you start to say, 'Enough of this.' "
Jason McCartney, a 20-year-old from Coralville, Iowa, was a surprising winner of the 139.4-mile leg in 5:40:16. He went to the lead 26 minutes into the leg as the course wound east through the southern Blue Ridge Mountains.
Armstrong, who will seek an unprecedented sixth straight Tour de France title in July, had already started racing Friday when the U.S. Postal Service, his team's sponsor since 1998, announced it won't renew its contract after 2004. Tailwind Sports Corporation of San Francisco owns Armstrong's team.
"I suppose if we find a new sponsor, then everything will be fine," Armstrong said. "But if we don't, I don't know that that's a good thing for cycling in general when you consider that the team that wins the Tour every year can't find a title sponsor."
McCartney began the day in 100th place - 10:05 behind Armstrong - and he raced consistently on the six climbs. He enters Saturday's sixth leg in 43rd place, 9:12 behind Armstrong.
"I'm not really a threat to the overall, so I've been working pretty hard the whole race," McCartney said. "It was about the stage win today."