Lance Armstrong (Astana) finished just 15 seconds behind winner Danilo Di Luca (LPR) and new pink jersey Thomas Lovkvist (Columbia) but the pain in his eyes just after he crossed the line indicated he had gone much deeper than most of the overall contenders in the Giro.

It reminded many of the ghost-like empty expression Armstrong showed after the finish of the 2003 Tour de France stage to Luz Ardiden when he crashed, chased and attacked to seal victory. Now he had suffered and finished 32nd.

To put his performance in context, Bradley Wiggins (Garmin) finished 35th, just 17 seconds slower. The Brit is climbing well. Armstrong clearly isn?t.

After crossing the line, he fought his way through the finish scrum, took a drink, put on a gilet and then quickly headed off back down the road to the Astana team bus without saying a word.

In a Twitter message Armstrong said: ?Stage 4 done. Uphill finish. Legs weren’t bad and made it almost the whole way. Came off a little at the top. Not bad for 1st big climb in first grand tour back and for coming back after the crash. Overall, I’m pleased. Team was amazing as well. All look good. Tomorrow-tough!?

Later the Astana team issued his words on the stage.

?We finished with a big group and I lost 15 seconds, but that is not so much,? Armstrong said.

?Moreover, I needed to make an adjustment to the derailleur. Of course, it was not a very difficult climb.?

Giro d'Italia 2009Armstrong gets technical assistance during stage four to fix his derailleur

?For Di Luca it was a perfect finish with the gradual climb. Basso, Di Luca, Garzelli and Cunego all looked very good.?

“Tomorrow will be a better indication. It will be a long and hard day. We?ll see. I don?t know what to expect. I am happy with my performance of today. This was my first big climb since retiring. I had a good feeling and no collarbone pain at all.”

Armstrong took some comfort by the breakaway attempt of fellow veteran Jens Voigt.

?He is a machine, a tough guy. Whenever you give him a minute, he is dangerous. Even as an old man, one day older than me, he is one of the strongest in the bunch,? Armstrong concluded.


Giro d’Italia 2009 links

Stage reports

Stage four: Di Luca denies Soler on the line; Lovkvist takes pink jersey

Stage three: Cavendish loses pink jersey after being caught behind late crash

Stage two: Petacchi denies Cavendish the stage win

Stage one: Cavendish in pink as Columbia prove their point to Garmin

Photo galleries

Stage four photo gallery

Stage three photo gallery

Stage two photo gallery

Stage one photo gallery

News

Lovkvist will fight to keep Giro lead

Giro could be last race for Armstrong’s team

Vande Velde crashes out of Giro

Petacchi claims he didn’t know of Cavendish crash

Cavendish struggles to find consolation in pink jersey

Petacchi: I’ve been working out how to beat Cav

I’m wearing pink on behalf of the team, says Cavendish

Wiggins ready to win Giro team time trial

Friday, May 8: Giro news round-up

Cavendish out to topple Garmin in Giro team time trial

Team time trial start times

Cycling Weekly’s Giro d’Italia top ten prediction

Brits in Venice for Giro presentation

Armstrong overshadows overall favourites at Giro presentation

Armstrong confident of finding new sponsor for Astana

Armstrong working to save Astana team

Wiggins in top form for Giro

Garmin Slipstream kitted out for Giro opener

Dan Lloyd gets late Giro call-up

Armstrong’s special Giro bikes unveiled

Daniel Lloyd overlooked for Giro ride

Cummings and Thomas not selected for Giro d’Italia

Cavendish tests Giro form at Tour of Romandie

David Millar confirms he’s riding in 2009 Giro

Bennati to take on Cavendish in Giro 2009 sprints

2009 Giro d’Italia to start in Venice

Evans and Silence-Lotto disagree on Giro 2009 ride

Armstrong to ride 2009 Giro

Tuttosport reveals 2009 Giro d’Italia route

Dolce & Gabbana design new Giro jersey

2009 Giro d’Italia guide and features

Find the pink jersey competition

Giro d’Italia 2009: The Big Preview

British riders to have led the grand tours

CW’s Giro top ten prediction

Brits in the Giro 2009

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish

CW Classic: the 1987 Giro d’Italia


2008 Giro d’Italia archive

Giro d’Italia 2008 coverage index – race reports, photos, results

From rule Britannia to cruel Britannia

Giro 2008: The final word on this year’s race

Brits at the 2008 Giro: photo special

Five days to go, what’s in store?

Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 27)

Giro d’Italia 2008: Rest day review (May 19)

Giro d’Italia 2008 preview

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