French climbing specialist Thibaut Pinot won cycling’s Tour of the Alps on Friday with Ukraine’s Mark Padun claiming victory in the fifth and final stage.
FDJ rider Pinot becomes the second French winner after Luc Leblanc in 1997. Italy’s Domenico Pozzovivo finished overall second with Colombian Miguel Angle Lopez third, both at 0.15sec adrift.
The race concluded after a 164km run from Rattenberg to Innsbruck, featuring a series of climbs, one of which peaked 12km from home before a 6km descent and a 6km dash for victory.
Padun made a late solo break to cross the line alone, 0.05sec ahead of New Zealander George Bennett with Czech Jan Hirt at 0.06.
It was the 21-year-old Bahrain-Merida rider’s first professional victory.
Froome – competing despite his case pending with the International Cycling Union’s anti-doping unit – finished the stage in eighth position.
The 32-year-old gave an adverse analytical finding for the asthma drug salbutamol at the Vuelta a Espana last September.
The former cycling superstar was due to face a trial next month over claims he defrauded the US government when he doped while racing for his United States Postal Service-sponsored team.
The Postal Service and former team-mate Floyd Landis had sought around $100 million in damages from Armstrong in the case, which was due to get under way on May 7.
However the prospect of a potentially ruinous judgement going against the cancer survivor was averted after Armstrong’s lawyers and the US Justice Department brokered a settlement.
“No one is above the law,” US Justice Department lawyer Chad Readler said in a statement announcing the deal. “This settlement demonstrates that those who cheat the government will be held accountable.”
Armstrong’s attorney Elliot Peters said in a statement the settlement “ends all litigation against Armstrong related to his 2013 admission that during his career as a professional cyclist he had used performance enhancing substances.”
The Washington Post reported Armstrong will also pay $1.65 million to cover the legal costs of former team-mate and whistleblower Landis. A further $1.1 million of the $5 million amount will go to Landis.
“I am glad to resolve this case and move forward with my life,” Armstrong, 46, said in a statement.
“I’m looking forward to devoting myself to the many great things in my life – my five kids, my wife, my podcast, several exciting writing and film projects, my work as a cancer survivor, and my passion for sports and competition. There is a lot to look forward to.”
Although Armstrong maintained the US Postal case was “without merit and unfair” he said he was pleased to have settled.
“I have since 2013 tried to take full responsibility for my mistakes, and make amends wherever possible,” he said, reflecting with pride on his performances in a US Postal jersey.
“I rode my heart out for the Postal cycling team, and was always especially proud to wear the red, white and blue eagle on my chest when competing in the Tour de France. Those memories are very real and mean a lot to me.”
Landis meanwhile told ESPN he was relieved not to have to confront Armstrong in a courtroom battle.
“I really didn’t want to relive it in a courtroom, and I don’t think Lance did either, and I don’t know that that would have really accomplished anything,” Landis said.
“Rather than going through that humiliation again, we’re better off. I mean, it was up to Lance, but I think he probably feels the same way.”
However the settlement was greeted with dismay by Betsy Andreu, the wife of former Armstrong team-mate Frankie Andreu. The Andreus were among the first to go on the record about Armstrong’s doping.
Betsy Andreu said the settlement amounted to Armstrong being let off the hook.
“My thought is a vengeful, unremorseful pathological liar was revealed and got a lifetime ban so all is not lost,” Andreu wrote on Facebook. “in the end he is who he is and money can’t buy class, respect or reputation.”
Armstrong’s personal fortune had been estimated at around $125 million in 2012.
But since his dramatic fall, he has lost lucrative sponsorship deals and in 2015 was ordered to pay back $10 million in bonus payments given to him by Dallas-based SCA Promotions relating to his Tour wins in 2002, 2003, and 2004.
The Washington Post reported he had recently listed his home in Austin, Texas for sale at $7.5 million.
The fallen US cycling star had battled back from cancer to win cycling’s most prestigious race, the Tour de France, a record seven consecutive times between 1999 and 2005.
Floyd Landis just won more than $1 million in a legal case against his former teammate Lance Armstrong. Here are his thoughts on the suit, cycling, and his onetime rival: https://t.co/76daoMIBi5 pic.twitter.com/qVH2HaqKla— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) April 19, 2018
Although rumours of drug use swirled around Armstrong throughout his career, he never failed a test.
However his reputation imploded when the United States Anti-Doping Agency wrapped up an investigation which concluded he had been at the heart of a sophisticated doping program throughout his career.
Armstrong later confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs and was banned from all competitions for life and stripped of his seven Tour titles.
The Italian will be making his ninth appearance at the race and is looking to build on his top 30 finish in 2017, while team-mate Dan Martin will be hoping to go one better on his 2017 performance which saw the Irishman finish in second place.
“Liege-Bastogne-Liege is the race that dreams are made of,” Ulissi said.
“I am highly motivated, the team is feeling competitive and we will have several options throughout the race to try and make our sponsors and fans happy.”
Ulissi and Martin will be joined by the same team-mates who have competed in the recent Ardennes Classics: Rui Costa, Matteo Bono, Rory Sutherland, Manuele Mori and Alexandr Riabushenko. Going into the final race of the classics, the team are optimistic following a valiant ride from Bono at the Amstel Gold Race, where the Italian headed the break-away for over 220km.
Both Ulissi and Costa can also take confidence from their rides at Fleche Wallonne, after snatching top-20 spots in a tough race with a gruelling finishing climb up the Mur de Huy. After 198.5kms of racing Costa placed 19th, with Ulissi’s effort earning him 14th, just 25 seconds behind winner Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors).
Liege–Bastogne–Liege, or ‘The Old Lady’ as it is known in the cycling community, is the final race of the Ardennes Classics and the oldest of the five Monuments – the most prestigious one-day cycling races.