Lance Armstrong's Team Manager Confident He Can Compete in Tour de France

Associated Press
Wednesday, March 25, 2009

PALENCIA, Spain, March 24 -- Lance Armstrong's team manager is confident a broken collarbone won't prevent the cycling great from riding in the Giro d'Italia or Tour de France.

"I don't think this changes anything for the Tour de France," Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel said Tuesday. "A broken collarbone in the month of March does not at all compromise the start of the Tour de France or your performance in the Tour de France."

The Tour de France runs July 4-26. The 37-year-old American had planned to ride in the Giro for the first time May 9-31.

Bruyneel said the team was "not ruling out the Giro at all."

"Being at the start of the Giro is no problem," Bruyneel said. "But he has to have at least a decent level to be in the race and to compete at a certain level. . . . Now it's almost clear that he's not going to be able to be a contender but we just have to change our focus and try to do the Giro, if he can get to the start, with another mentality."

Armstrong fractured his collarbone Monday after crashing in the first stage of the Vuelta of Castilla and Leon race in northern Spain. The seven-time Tour champion stayed in Bruyneel's house in Madrid on Monday night before flying Tuesday to Austin for possible surgery.

"Sitting in the airport getting ready to fly home. Layover in NYC then ATX!" Armstrong wrote on his Twitter feed.

Bruyneel said Armstrong would see a specialist in Austin.

"Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow morning, and then we'll see what the verdict is," Bruyneel said. "I would say at first it's not a complicated fracture, which is good. . . . There's no displacement or anything complicated. I think now the question is whether there's going to be surgery or not. That's up to the specialists."

Armstrong was riding in his second race in Europe since returning from a 3 1/2 -year retirement. Last week, he finished 125th in the Milan-San Remo cycling classic, more than eight minutes behind winner Mark Cavendish.

"He was very disappointed. Spirits were not high yesterday, I have to say, but that's logical," Bruyneel said. "He has to consider himself lucky that it's not worse.

"From all the bones you have in your body, if you have to break one, I would choose the collarbone because it's the one that heals the fastest. It's not a leg or a knee or a foot or a hip, which would mean several weeks or months without any activity."

Armstrong crashed after a pileup of riders about 12.5 miles from the finish of the first stage of the Castilla and Leon race. Bruyneel said Armstrong hit the ground hard with his head, breaking his helmet.

Armstrong was riding alongside teammate Alberto Contador for the first time. Contador won the Tour de France in 2007, two years after Armstrong won the last of his seven straight titles.

"It's a shame to lose Lance in this way because he was eager to get some good preparation in this race, " Contador said.

Organizers for the Giro are holding out hope that Armstrong will enter the race. "We're used to watching Armstrong pull off miracles, so we're still hoping he can do one more," Giro director Angelo Zomegnan told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Giro, organizers have prepared a special route that passes through nearly all of Italy's major cities. It will start in Venice and end in Rome.

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