Armstrong says he’s stronger, and that RadioShack will target Tour Down Under results
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Armstrong says he’s stronger, and that RadioShack will target Tour Down Under results

by Conal Andrews at 5:48 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour Down Under

Last year the race was primarily about building form in the first year of his comeback, but this time round Lance Armstrong has said that he’s feeling stronger and that his team will be chasing results next week.

The 38 year old Texan has arrived into Australia in advance of the January 17th opening criterium and appears to be happy with his condition.

“I feel good,” he told reporters after his landing. “I mean I'm a little tired now because it's a long day, but physically (I'm) a little better than last year.

"The indications we had in training, based on being on the same roads I was on just before the Tour Down Under last year, [are that] the condition is better. But we'll see how the race unfolds - there's other guys who are big, big favourites here."

Armstrong and the rest of the team are heading into year one of the new project and because of this, the race will be taken a bit more seriously than last time round. He suggests that it’s important to start the season in a good way, and said that the riders will have an extra incentive to do so.

"We bring a whole different outfit now, it's not the same team as last year so we're excited to get results for the new team and sponsors,” he explained. “We have a good group and this will be our first experience in a race together.

“Without putting too much pressure on us, it’s important [to do well early on]. The fact of the matter is that the executive of RadioShack is flying over for our first race. We all know that and we all understand this is a big commitment on their part.”

Motivated by the thoughts of winning an eighth Tour de France – and undoubtedly fuelled by the anger of being beaten by Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck last July – he has been training very hard this winter. While many of his rivals have been losing out on kilometres due to bad weather, Armstrong has been staying in the far warmer climes of Hawaii and has already been doing rides of over six hours in length.

He has also been doing long yoga sessions to help with his flexibility, and working with the RadioShack support crew to try to find more improvements. One example is the work he has been doing with Allen Lim to try to develop better hydration and thermoregulation strategies for races.

The latter work will perhaps get a chance to be used right away due to the record temperatures that South Australia has been experiencing. If it stays hot, the warm-weather training he has been doing will make him far more suited to coping than the riders who have come from a much cooler Europe.

Goals for the race:

Given the amount of training that he has been doing, plus the improvement in form that he has spoken about, many will be wondering if he will aim to take a stage or a high overall finish, and thus send out a signal that he is ready for 2010.

Armstrong didn’t take a single European victory during his comeback season, apart from Astana’s team time trial win in the Tour de France, and standing on top of a podium would prove that he means this year to be a more successful one.

However he didn’t appear to want to commit to stating his own goals. Asked if he would be targeting stages, he instead deflected the attention to another team-mate.

"Hopefully (Gert) Steegmans can do that, he's got the speed to do that, he's been training incredibly hard,” he said. “He's been training for the spring classics, so this is important for him.”

Steemans is a two-time stage winner in the Tour de France and is itching to get back racing after missing most of 2009 due to contractual disputes with his-then Katusha team. The parcours in Australia should suit him, and so Armstrong suggests that he will be the main protected rider.

"It takes a special kind of sprint, I think, but we have the guys to work for him and lead him out if need be,” he continued. "But look at the weather now - if it's windy like this, races explode and they don't end up (as) good sprints so we also have to be smart, stay in front, avoid crashes and have good tactics.

"If you end up in the front on a windy day, you like it. But sometimes you're the hammer, sometimes you're the nail…you've just got to stay in front."


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