SNOWBASIN -- It was all about the bike, or at least the man who rode the bike. Saturday's Xterra USA Championship boasted a full field of triathlon superstars, athletes with great accomplishments and fantastic stories, but none of them attracted the same sort of devoted attention and media worship as did first-time Xterra racer Lance Armstrong.
Armstrong, who finished fifth overall behind pro Xterra athletes Nicolas Lebrun, Dan Hugo, Conrad Stoltz, and Josiah Middaugh, brought a new frenzy to the usually laid-back Xterra race.
"It was a good race to win today," said Lebrun, who finished five minutes ahead of Armstrong. "I think a lot of athletes knew that this morning. Today there was more media, more people around, and we knew it would be a very big thing to win."
Lebrun said that having Armstrong in the race made it a little more intense, but it didn't change his focus -- to win and beat his regular competition.
He said he hoped it would bring even more competition next year.
"This is just really good for us and Xterra," Lebrun said. "It brings more media, more people. We hope next year that a lot of athletes will say, 'Lance did it. I want to do it too.' It was really good to have him here."
It was easy to spot Armstrong, as he was followed by a throng of camera-wielding fans and media.
Immediately after the race, Armstrong was rushed inside a no-media zone, but he returned for a sort of news conference after a short cool-down.
"I saw there was a lot of great support out there, a lot of LiveStrong supporters which was nice to see," said Armstrong.
"Of course you get to the last part of the race and you can't see much of anything. I was racing cross-eyed. But you hear the voices, and hear the stories in passing. It's cool."
The larger-than-usual crowd held "Ogden Hearts Lance" signs handed out by the Ogden Convention and Visitors Bureau, with the names of the top Xterra athletes on the opposite side.
And the athletes welcomed the chance to showcase their skills and their sport alongside the seven-time Tour de France winner.
Later, Armstrong denied he's receiving training help from a banned Italian doctor allegedly linked to a doping ring, or the doctor's son, but maintains "those guys are my friends and that's not going to change."
"To be honest, I'm totally immune to any controversy," Armstrong said. "I've been listening to this stuff for 15 years."
Armstrong, who won the Tour every year from 1999 to 2005, has always fiercely denied doping and has never failed a drug test.
He is, however, being investigated by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles that has been meeting for more than a year to examine illegal drug use in professional cycling.
The cyclist accused investigators of timing leaks to the media for moments when he was racing, be it at Tour de France, the Tour Down Under or the Xterra.
This week he also represented LiveStrong, his cancer charity, at a summit in New York City partly sponsored by the United Nations.
"It's no accident they leaked that this week. It's just the clowns on the other side just capitalizing on all you guys standing here. And you guys fall right into it," he told a crowd of reporters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.