By Times Staff and Wire Reports
Published April 26, 2004
ALPHARETTA, Ga. - Lance Armstrong looks Tour ready.
With a surprising burst of April power, Armstrong cruised to a comfortable win Sunday in the Tour de Georgia, his first victory in a U.S. stage race since 1998.
"It's always nice to win," said Armstrong, who seeks a record sixth straight win this year in the Tour de France. "It's also nice to come and meet some objectives, like doing a good time trial, doing some good climbs. We worked well on the team. It was a complete win."
"There's no one who's going to beat him," said Canada's Gord Fraser, who won the seventh stage of the six-day race with a furious sprint to the line. "It's going to take something like a tactical mistake for him to lose, but he doesn't make those."
Armstrong entered the final 88.4-mile stage of the Tour de Georgia with a 24-second lead and had to make sure Germany's Jens Voigt, in second place, didn't break away. Almost everyone arrived in Alpharetta together, finishing with four 3.6-mile circuits around the streets of the north Atlanta suburb.
Armstrong took control by winning both stages Thursday, then protected his lead during two grueling treks through the north Georgia mountains. The final stage was academic - Armstrong did not have go for the win, merely stay near the front, protected from trouble by his U.S. Postal Service teammates. Armstrong finished 66th but was credited with the same time as all 76 leaders in the lead pack: 3 hours, 20 minutes, 15 seconds.
The overall winning time was 25:39:20, leaving Voigt with the same 24-second deficit he had at the beginning of the day. American Chris Horner, the defending champ, was third.
TENNIS: U.S. advances in Fed Cup
Venus Williams and Lisa Raymond won singles matches to lead the United States 4-1 over host Slovenia and a berth in the Fed Cup quarterfinals. After Williams beat Tina Pisnik 6-3, 6-1 to give the Americans a 2-1 edge, former Florida star Raymond clinched victory in the best-of-five series by rallying to defeat Katarina Srebotnik 5-7, 6-3, 6-4. The Americans completed the first round when 47-year-old Martina Navratilova and Raymond won doubles, beating Srebotnik and Tina Krizan 6-1, 1-6, 6-0.
In the July10-11 quarterfinals, first-year captain Zina Garrison and the United States face Austria, which eliminated Slovakia. In 2002, Austria beat the United States in the first round. The other quarterfinal matchups: Belgium vs. Spain, Russia vs. Argentina, and France vs. Italy or Czech Republic.
MONTE CARLO MASTERS: With the French Open looming, Guillermo Coria is as good as it gets on clay. Coria overwhelmed Rainer Schuettler 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 in Monaco for his 26th straight win on clay and seventh career title on the surface.
SOCCER: Maradona improves
Diego Maradona was removed from a respirator for the second time in three days as he battles serious heart and lung problems. Doctors in Buenos Aires, Argentina, said the 43-year-old's condition had stabilized and he is "no longer suffering from a fever, and his heart is functioning well with medication." Maradona is in the critical care unit of a private hospital where he was admitted April18.
PREMIER LEAGUE: Arsenal clinched its second league title in three years, tying Tottenham 2-2. After second-place Chelsea lost to Newcastle 2-1, unbeaten Arsenal knew it needed only a tie to secure its 13th league championship. Arsenal is 24-0-10 for 82 points, with four games left. Chelsea (22-7-6) has 72 points with three games left and defending champ Manchester United (22-8-5, 71 points) is third.
MLS: New England's Clint Dempsey and the MetroStars' Amado Guevara traded first-half goals two minutes apart in a 1-1 game in East Rutherford, N.J.
GREYHOUNDS: WW Raise The Bar has the most points of qualifiers for the Gold Trophy Juvenile stakes. Semifinals are Wednesday night; the final is Saturday. Plaza gates at Derby Lane will open at 10:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday for the Kentucky Derby. Advance wagering is Friday. Cayman Went and Rooftop Moby will be honored via video at the Greyhound Hall of Fame in Abilene, Kan., Thursday for their 2003 success.
HOCKEY: Austria earned its first point ever against Canada with a 2-2 tie at the World Championships in the Czech Republic. Canada is 9-1 against Austria, with a 56-4 advantage in goals. In other games, Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson scored twice to lift Sweden 5-1 over Japan, Switzerland topped France 6-0 and Russia defeated Denmark 6-2.
HORSES: River Dancer, a 58-1 shot, won the $1.79-million Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Hong Kong by three-quarters of a length over Elegant Fashion in the first leg of the World Series Racing Championship.