Seven-time winner Lance Armstrong has given the just-announced 2009 Tour de France route the thumbs up and says he looks forward to trying to win the race again, but it was still not known who will lead his team, Astana.
The US cycling legend, returning after a three-year hiatus, released a reaction statement that also expressed his hopes for a return to the event and his desire to work within the Astana team in whatever fashion necessary.
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Route details released today in Paris include an innovative course that sends the peleton from Monaco over the Pyrenees, up eastern France and through the Alps next July 4-26 with the Ventoux mountains in the penultimate stage.
“The route of the 2009 Tour de France strikes me as innovative and very interesting,” Armstrong said.
“From its start in Monte Carlo with a 15km time trial, to the reinstatement of the team time trial, to stages in my old hometown of Girona all the way to another visit to my old friend the Ventoux, I could not have hoped for a different Tour.”
Armstrong and Tour leaders had been at odds during Armstrong's domination of the event, but the US star hopes for a new start in his comeback.
“While there has been a fair bit of tension and numerous disagreements with the Tour and its organizers, I am well aware that there is new leadership at ASO and I look forward to upcoming conversations and to a mutually beneficial future together,” Armstrong said.
“Whether it's promoting the Livestrong global cancer campaign or making the biggest bike race in the world the gem that it deserves to be, I look forward to next year.”
Armstrong also praised the International Cycling Union (UCI) in the wake of major dope testing that has rocked the event in the years since Armstrong's retirement.
“I would also like to recognize the UCI and commend them for their aggressive stance against doping, a stance that is unmatched in all of world sport,” Armstrong said.
Who will lead Astana?
Concern over who will be the rider pushed forward for the yellow jersey by the 2009 Astana team with its all-star line-up were addressed by Armstrong as well.
“As to the leadership of the Astana team in 2009, it's illogical to pre-select a leader for any race in October of the previous year,” Armstrong said.
“I have been around long enough to know that cycling is a team sport and I am fully committed to supporting the strongest rider in any race, whether that's me, Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, or Andreas Kloden.
“We are blessed at Astana to have the strongest team in the world and I look forward to riding with all of these great riders.