Riis dismisses Armstrong’s chances, says route suits Saxo Bank
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Riis dismisses Armstrong’s chances, says route suits Saxo Bank

by Conal Andrews at 6:49 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 

1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis is complimentary about Lance Armstrong’s performance in last year’s race, but states that he thinks the American will struggle to even finish on the podium this year. Citing his age and a tougher route, Riis feels that a top five finish is possible.

“I don’t think Armstrong can win the Tour. I am deeply impressed by what he achieved last year. It was beautiful and it deserves great respect,” he told Sporten.dk. “But Lance was allowed to race exactly the Tour he wanted because he had Alberto Contador on his team. The route was also perfectly suited to him.

“There are many more hills this year, the route is harder, and it will give Lance major problems. He must pull himself together to finish in the top five. I think now that he can do that, but it will be difficult for him to get onto the podium. He must really be markedly better, and I don’t think he will manage that. He is getting older and he may not get his kilograms over the big mountains.”

Armstrong appears to be in better form than at this time last year, and has been training extremely hard before the season. He has said that with a year of racing under his belt, he thinks that he can be at a better level than in 2009. He finished third last July, conceding five minutes and 24 seconds to Contador and one minute 13 seconds to runner-up Andy Schleck.

Many have said that they expect him to move up a notch, yet Riis remains doubtful. “When Frank, Andy and Contador are going all out, Lance cannot cope. In 2009, on the stage that Frank won, it was clear that Lance could not match them. On Mont Ventoux he performed well, but that was just one climb. This year the route suits us much better.”

Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden have now moved to the RadioShack team, while Contador remains with Astana. Cadel Evans has moved to BMC Racing and Bradley Wiggins – fourth last year – has joined the new Sky team. Christian Vande Velde will lead Garmin in 2010 and hopes to return to his 2008 form.

Riis anticipates an exciting race, and thinks that the inter-team rivalries between certain riders could give an advantage to the Schleck brothers. They have avoided any personality conflicts and, he hopes, their rivals will be watched more closely.

“It is great for us that the big names are more spread out this year. There is war between Armstrong and Contador, and perhaps between Bradley Wiggins from Sky and Armstrong,” he said. “We should be okay with everyone. We can perhaps profit from that and ride our own race. It will be very interesting.”

Armstrong is the first of the big Tour riders to compete this year. He is currently taking part in the Santos Tour Down Under in Australia and plans to test his legs on Saturday’s tough stage.

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