Ben Swift wins second stage

ADELAIDE, Australia -- Lance Armstrong was content once again to avoid all the trouble in the Tour Down Under. He hasn't been nearly as fortunate when he gets off his bike.

The seven-time Tour de France winner missed three crashes in the final few miles to finish in the main pack during the second stage of the race, won by Britain's Ben Swift on Wednesday. Armstrong is 60th overall in what he already has said will be his final international race.

Armstrong also brushed aside questions before the stage about a report in Sports Illustrated that challenges past statements that he cut ties to an Italian doctor and training adviser who has long been accused of helping cyclists cheat. Armstrong would say only that he had perused the report and that "I have nothing to worry about on any level."

Johan Bruyneel, the manager of his Radio Shack team, also refused to comment on it.

Swift won the 91-mile second stage from Tailem Bend to Mannum, avoiding a series of crashes in the final three miles that claimed overnight leader Matthew Goss.

Sprinting star Mark Cavendish, riding for the U.S.-based team HTC-Highroad, suffered a serious cut above his right eye, deep lacerations and abrasions to his shoulder, side and knee during one of the crashes but said he plans to start the race's third stage Thursday.

Goss, also racing for HTC-Highroad, recovered from his fall to finish in the peleton. He still gave up the overall lead to fellow Aussie Robbie McEwen, who was second in the stage.

Graeme Brown of Australia was third in the chaotic finish, ahead of Romain Feillu of France and Jurgens Roelandts of Belgium. Armstrong, who finished 81st in the opening stage, was 42nd and credited with the same time as the winner.

McEwen, Armstrong's Radio Shack teammate, leads the overall standings ahead of Goss and Swift, who share his accumulated time of 6 hours, 44 minutes, 42 seconds. Defending champion Andre Greipel, who was second overnight, fell back to fourth overall, 4 seconds behind McEwen.

The second stage in the Murray River region of South Australia was relatively uneventful until the last few miles, when Cavendish and Goss fell. More riders came down when they skidded on gravel on a corner about two miles from the finish, and a large group crashed on the sprint.

Britain's Geraint Thomas fell back through the field sharply in the bunched sprint and following riders, compressed into a tight finishing stretch on the main street of Mannum, were forced to attempt evasive action, collided with each other and crashed to the ground.

McEwen avoided the worst of the carnage to take over the tour leader's ochre jersey.

"I'm very happy. I have the jersey through consistency," he said. "Unfortunately guys crashed; that also influenced things. I'm sure otherwise, Greipel and Matt Goss would have been up there in contention for the win, but that's part of bike racing.

"You have to actually get to the finish, and bad luck is a part of racing" McEwen said. "I was fortunate not to get caught up in it, and it's delivered me the jersey."

Goss said there was "plenty of carnage" in the stage's final few miles. He was able to remount his bike after falling and caught the peleton, and was fortunate not to reach the front of the bunch, where two more crashes wrecked the chances of some of the leading riders.

Goss finished 47th in the stage and Greipel 76th.

The most serious injury was to Australian Bernie Sulzberger, who broke his collarbone and was taken to a hospital for surgery, needing a metal plate inserted to repair the injury. He has withdrawn from the remainder of the tour.

Cavendish ended the stage with his face caked in blood from cuts above and below his left eye that needed two stitches. He confirmed later he would race in the 70-mile third stage from Unley in suburban Adelaide to Stirling in the hills on the city's eastern fringe.