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Sports People: Armstrong feels strong in return



MOGOLLON, N.M. – Lance Armstrong felt the jitters at the start Wednesday, when he saddled up for his first race since breaking a collarbone during a crash in Spain last month.

He left satisfied after the opening stage of the five-day Tour of the Gila. He came to New Mexico, he said, to regain a feel for the peleton, work at racing pace and boost his conditioning for the Giro d’Italia, which begins May 9.

“You definitely feel stiff or blocked a little bit,” Armstrong said after his eighth-place finish. “That’s to be expected. You can train those intense intervals but it doesn’t replicate a race.”

Armstrong only spent about 20 miles during the 94-mile race from Silver City to Mogollon in the lead group. His tactical mission was helping teammate and stage winner Levi Leipheimer on a big finishing climb.

“Getting the rhythm, the speed, getting some accelerations in a peleton,” said Armstrong’s boss, Astana general manager Johan Bruyneel. “Also, we’re looking at how he feels. Today, he felt good. He did some work for Levi until Levi could launch his attack.”

Leipheimer won in an unofficial time of 4 hours, 41.02 seconds. Armstrong was clocked unofficially at 4:42.43.

Afterward, the seven-time Tour de France champion reported no concerns with the collarbone and said it hasn’t bothered him for weeks. Asked to calculate where his recovery stands, he said that was difficult.

“Better than I thought I would be,” he replied. “I feel strong. I feel like the recovery has been good. Those are the things you need. Getting lighter is another thing you need. It’s working out so far.”

Steelers’ receiver faces pot charge

PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Steelers receiver and Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes was arraigned Wednesday on a misdemeanor marijuana charge stemming from a traffic stop.

Holmes’ attorney, Robert DelGreco Jr., appeared at the brief hearing where charges were formally presented. Holmes did not appear, nor was he required to.

DelGreco said he planned to challenge the constitutionality of the stop, but did not elaborate.

“I will be filing a suppression motion. That will be a public record and we’ll go from there,” he said.

Pittsburgh police said they found three marijuana-filled cigars in Holmes’ car when he was pulled over Oct. 23. Holmes was stopped because his car was similar to one they were looking for in a drug sting.

Murray upset by Monaco

ROME – Fourth-ranked Andy Murray lost for only the fourth time this year, upset by Argentine qualifier Juan Monaco 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 on Wednesday in his opener at the Rome Masters.

Murray easily won the first set before missing several first serves and committing unforced errors, while the 58th-ranked Monaco won several points with an effective drop shot.

“To be fair, he started playing a lot better,” Murray said. “It wasn’t my best match, but I was still very close to winning.”

Monaco will next face 15th-seeded Marin Cilic after the 6-foot-6 Croatian beat Christophe Rochus of Belgium 6-0, 5-7, 6-2.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer both advanced in straight sets. Nadal took the crowd out of play with a methodical 6-2, 6-3 win over Andreas Seppi, the top-ranked Italian at No. 37, while Federer beat big-serving Ivo Karlovic 6-4, 6-4.

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