Armstrong 'suffered' in Euro debut, still a long way off
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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Armstrong 'suffered' in Euro debut, still a long way off

by VeloNation Press at 10:51 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

Team RadioShack's Lance Armstrong had his 2010 European debut yesterday in stage one of the Tour of Murcia. It's been over a month since the American raced in Australia at the Tour Down Under and he told the press that he "suffered a little bit" during the stage.

"It's just the tempo," he said to ABC News. "It was a windy day, it's nervous and at the end we're doing 60-70 kilometers an hour, and you can't simulate that in training. So you're a little bit out of [your] element."

Team RadioShack's manager Johan Bruyneel said Armstrong was "still a long way off from being in good shape right now."

He ended the flat stage in 46th place with the same time as winner Robert Hunter of the Garmin-Transitions team.

"He's a bit better than last year, but he's different," Bruyneel said. "Last year everything was new, we had lost all of the references. The whole time we lived with doubt...doubt whether he would reach a certain level, how would that level be, what do we have to do."

The season is still young though, and Armstrong is only concerned about being on form in July, where he will attempt to win an eighth Tour de France. "Now we know he can reach a competitive level," said a confident Bruyneel.

Last year Armstrong's comeback nearly came to a halt when disaster struck at the Vuelta a Castilla y León. The seven-time Tour winner suffered a broken collarbone requiring surgery and put his season in doubt. Now in his first visit to Spain since the accident he's going make sure he sticks to what he believes was a critical part of his success. "The key there is don't be in the back," Armstrong said. "I was at the back and you get caught behind the crashes and stupid stuff happens."

Bruyneel knows that Armstrong is a wildcard when it comes to the Tour de France, and also realizes that all of the details add up to increase the team's chances for victory.

"We didn't have time to focus on specific things," explained Bruynell about Armstrong's first attempt at Tour number eight. "Last year was more general training without an idea of where it would go."

Saturday's 13.7-mile time trial in Alhama de Murcia will be an indicator on how much Armstrong has improved with a year of competition under his belt.

"Until 2005 we knew that if things went well, the preparation, if there were no crashes, no one got sick, no mechanical problems on the course and if the team worked well, we had certain guarantees to win the Tour. Now, that's not the case," added Bruyneel.

This year the team is trying to enjoy take a calmer approach to the Tour de France after last year's conflict with former teammate Alberto Contador. The Spaniard went on to easily win the Tour de France when riding alongside Armstrong on the Astana team. The American then brough the whole of the 2009 Astana Tour de France team over to his new RadioShack formation leaving Contador on the controversial Kazakh team.

In the off-season Astana began to get their act together hiring Frenchman Yvon Sanquer and Italian Giuseppe Martinelli to run the team. Now both riders feel they are better off than the previous year. This time around for Armstrong though, Bruyneel says he's going to take it as it comes.

"He tries to win [the Tour de France], but it's not like in 2005 when it started to become an obligation. There were a lot more distractions and negatives and now we're trying to cut all the negative and to enjoy what we do," says Bruyneel.

"It feels like 2004 and 2005. There's super ambiance, everyone enjoys what they're doing. It's a little bit better than last year," he concluded.

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