BLOCKHAUS, Italy — There was the trademark glance over his shoulder. That famous upright stance on the pedals, and the fans cheering Lance Armstrong all alone on his way up the mountain.
Only this time, Armstrong’s solo attack petered out after a few miles and the seven-time Tour de France winner finished 10th in the 17th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday, 1 minute, 59 seconds behind stage winner Franco Pellizotti.
When Armstrong attacked on the uphill finish, he left the race leaders behind and got as close as 25 yards behind leader Pellizotti.
“It was a nice try,” Armstrong’s team director Johan Bruyneel said. “Definitely he is coming to another level again. That’s exactly what I hoped for.”
Armstrong is still regaining his form after 3 1/2 years of retirement and breaking his collarbone in March. Until now, he has been riding in support of teammate Levi Leipheimer.
But with Leipheimer out of contention in sixth place, 4:32 behind overall leader Denis Menchov, Armstrong can ride on his own.
“Got a little antsy and went early after Pellizoti (who won) but didn’t have the legs to catch him,” Armstrong wrote on his Twitter feed. “But I feel my condition is improving ok considering I drank beer for 4 years, crashed hard last month, and am an old dog.”
Armstrong eventually dropped back for the rest of the climb behind defending Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre, with two-time Giro winner Gilberto Simoni in tow. Armstrong remained 12th, 12:17 behind.