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Armstrong riding to plan at Tour de France

SEDAN, France (AP) -- Lance Armstrong finished 54th in the second stage of the Tour de France, and he was hardly concerned.

With 1,890 miles left, Armstrong is happy to bide his time as he attempts to equal Miguel Indurain's record of five Tour victories.

The Tour's second stage on the relatively flat 126.8-mile stage to Sedan, a town near the border with Belgium, was a good one for Armstrong because he stayed out of trouble.

''There's nothing special to report, it was a good day, a normal day for the early stages of the race,'' said a spokesman for Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service team, Jogi Muller.

For now, Armstrong -- who is in 10th place overall -- and the Postal team are happy to let other riders and squads take early stages that finish with fierce and sometimes dangerous sprints.

Riders still have fresh legs and newcomers are adjusting to racing in the large pack of nearly 200 cyclists. It can be a recipe for trouble, as a large crash Sunday that involved about 35 riders -- including Armstrong -- proved.

The Postal Service team is setting its sights on team time trials Wednesday and the Alps, where Armstrong aims to start powering away from his rivals. The first Alpine stage is Saturday, up to the ski resort of Morzine.

''A team like us just hopes for the mountains to come as fast as they can and get out unscathed,'' Dan Osipow, the team's general manager, said at the start of Monday's stage, which was run under hot, sunny skies.

Australian Baden Cooke, a 24-year-old sprinter who last year finished 127th overall, won the stage in a fierce dash at the finish, edging France's Jean-Patrick Nazon and Estonia's Jaan Kirsipuu.

''It's incredible. I can't believe it. I don't understand what's going on. It's incredible,'' said Cooke, who had never won a stage on the Tour.

''The final sprint was very, very dangerous … Every day you take your chances,'' he said. ''Usually it doesn't work, but today it worked. I've been thinking about winning a race like this all year. I don't even believe it's happened yet.''

The stage started at La Ferte-sous-Jouarre, east of Paris. Cooke finished the route in 5 hours, 6 minutes and 33 seconds, averaging 25 mph.

Overall, Armstrong is just 11 seconds off current race leader Bradley McGee, an Australian sprint specialist who won the Tour's first event, a race against the clock through the streets of Paris on Saturday.

McGee, like Cooke, races for French squad Fdjeux.com, which has won two of the Tour races so far.

''There's an incredible spirit in the team,'' McGee said. ''That's why we're working well together. On the Tour de France, you need a good spirit because of all the stress. We are all tired after just two days. It comes quickly here.''

McGee finished 52nd Monday, close enough to Cooke to retain the coveted yellow jersey worn by the overall Tour leader.

Jan Ullrich, the 1997 winner and a key rival of Armstrong's, is fifth overall, just 5 seconds ahead of the Texan.

Armstrong's former teammate, American Tyler Hamilton completed Monday's stage with a broken collarbone he suffered in the crash Sunday.

''I was aching all day, there was this really sharp pain. But if it was more than I could take then I would not have continued,'' Hamilton said after finishing 100th out of the 196 riders. He was eighth overall -- and said he hoped to continue.

''Tyler's tough,'' Armstrong said. ''Tyler's used to pain, he can do it.''