Greipel outpaces rivals for 2nd straight victory

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Team Columbia-HTC rider Andre Greipel of Germany celebrates after the 16th stage of the Tour of Spain "La Vuelta" cycling race between Cordoba and Puertollano, September 15, 2009.

BEIJING, Jan. 21 -- Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong says Andre Greipel is the man to beat in the Tour Down Under in Australia after the German sprinter won Wednesday's second stage for the United States-based Team Columbia HTC.

Greipel, the 2008 champion, has won the first two stages of the six-stage race - lifting to seven his tally of Tour Down Under stage wins - to take a 14-second lead over New Zealander Greg Henderson and Gert Steegmans of Armstrong's Team Radioshack.

Armstrong came in 48th in yesterday's stage, credited with the same time as Greipel, and is placed 39th overall after two stages, 20 seconds behind Greipel and one place behind Cadel Evans, the reigning world road racing champion.

Armstrong's former teammate, U.S. road racing champion George Hincapie is 23rd overall, and 2006 Tour de France champion Oscar Pereiro is 75th, 1 minute, 15 seconds behind the race leader.

Armstrong raced prominently in a stage made difficult by heat which touched 30 Celsius and by a series of steep climbs, then a bunched finish.

"It was not so bad, not as bad as last year," said Armstrong who is contesting the tour for the second time. "It's a shock for almost all of us who haven't been racing. Just the intensity. The heat came on today and you just get those little steep walls so all in all not bad."

Greipel's win was celebrated in Hahndorf, a village of tightly-packed stone cottages established by German immigrants whose older residents still converse in German. "That is why we are here, to perform good and its nice to win in a German town," Greipel said.

Armstrong said Greipel was "definitely the man to beat" after his dominance of the first two stages, which were ideally suited to sprinters.

(Source: Shanghai Daily)