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

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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