Lance set to ride only U.S. race at San Francisco Grand Prix

So America will get to see Lance race this year after all.

For the first and only time, and for his final race of the season, three-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will race on home turf, at the inaugural San Francisco Grand Prix on Sunday, Sept. 9.

I havent raced in America in so long Im really excited to compete on home soil, said Armstrong, who hasnt raced domestically since his own Ride for the Roses criterium in April 2000. San Francisco is one of my favorites cities in the world and is a perfect city to host an international cycling race. I know the course is going to be really tough Im looking forward to the climb on Fillmore Street.

The climb up Fillmore Street that Armstrong refers to will be the biggest obstacle in the 125-mile, 10-lap course (plus five short laps at the finish). The race begins along SFs picturesque Embarcadero and follows a flat course north along the bay to Fishermans Wharf before it turns up the 20 percent grade of the three-block Fillmore Street climb a seemingly perfect jump-off point for one of Armstrongs patented late-race attacks. That is, if he is in good form for his last race of 2001.

Armstrong clearly didnt have good form when he registered a did-not-finish at the Championship of Zurich world cup race last week.

"My form is way off from the Tour, I'm not nearly in the same shape as I was. I suffered during the Tour of Burgos. When you've been in super shape and you don't train it's hard to get restarted, Armstrong said after dropping out just 25 kilometers into the Zurich race.

But he is confident that his U.S. Postal Service team can put together a good showing at the race.

The USPS team has fielded a solid team for the San Francisco Grand Prix, Armstrong, ranked first in the UCI standings, said. I think we will be very competitive at the event.

George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton, Viatcheslav Ekimov and Steffen Kjaergaard are among the USPS riders slated to ride in support of Armstrong.

Of course, there are a few other riders in the expected 120-rider field that might have something to prove Pro Cycling Tour leader Trent Klasna (Saturn), U.S. Champion Freddie Rodriguez (Domo) and BMC Software Grand Prix leader Vaswsili Davidenko (Navigators) and Mercurys Chris Horner are among the big guns racing for the $40,000 total prize list, not too mention bragging rights for knocking off the Tour winner.

In Europe, where cycling is a big-time sport followed by all, a race wouldnt be used as a promotion for bicycle commuting, but San Francisco is a different story. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) is sponsoring the Great San Francisco Bike Ride, a fun family ride of one lap of the five-mile portion of the race course preceding the San Francisco Grand Prix. Proceeds will benefit the SFBC's campaign for peaceful coexistence on San Francisco streets, and community organizing to get bike lanes in every neighborhood. A good bike race, a good cause.

Although American cycling fans have grown used to watching Armstrong and professional cycling on the cable channel Outdoor Life Network, for this race youll have to live in northern California, or have a friend willing to tape the race. Five hours of live race coverage will be televised on local ABC affiliate KGO-TV.

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