Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lance Armstrong Overshadows Overall Favorites At 2009 Giro Presentation

Lance Armstrong confirmed categorically that he does not have the form to win the Giro d'Italia but his presence in the race has left little of the spotlight for the real overall contenders.

All the 198 riders from the 22 teams paraded in the spectacular St Mark's Square on Thursday afternoon but most of the tourists and tifosi were their to see Armstrong and fought for autographs as the he climbed into a gondola for the perfect Giro photo opportunity.

Armstrong was a little surprised by it all but seemed to enjoy it.

“It's been a while since I was in a race of this magnitude," he said, clearly bemused to have gone down the Grande Canal in a gondola.

“It's a new experience for me, I've never been in the Giro. I know the history and the former winners but I never took the opportunity to participate in the past that was a regret. We're excited and we're fit and ready to race.”

“I don't think it's enough to just come and experience the Giro. We have to come and try and affect the outcome. I'm excited. I'm fit enough and well enough after the injury to be here. My collarbone feels fine. There's so much hardware in there, it's not going to move ever.”

Last year Armstrong's team mate Alberto Contador ended his holidays early to ride the Giro, going on to win. Armstrong made it clear he cannot pull off a similar return and win this year's Giro.

“No, I don't think it's possible. No. I feel better than I expected but I don't think I have the condition. I know I don't have the condition to take on these guys. Alberto came back from a high level before he went on vacation, winning races and riding strongly, and then got his form back during the Giro. Mine has never been one which starts the season strong, it grows up during the year. So we're not there yet.

“I need to continue to recover and try and recover the condition I seemed to be building up. I didn't have any side effects from the crash other than time off from the bike. I basically need to continue to get into shape that I could take into the Tour.

“I'd love to win a stage. I don't know if I can or I'm fit enough but I'd love to try. Then it'd be a good thing if we achieve some success with the team.”

Ivan Basso (Liquigas), Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre (Cervelo), Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone), Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes), Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni), Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) all attended the pre-race press conference as former winners of major stage races.

Most got one or two questions, all the rest were for Armstrong.

Asked to name their favourite for the Giro, Cunego said Armstrong and Simoni said Danilo Di Luca. Everybody else named Ivan Basso as their favourite. Armstrong came up with a combination of Ivan Beipheimer.

Armstrong seems more relaxed without the pressure of being an overall contender. He insisted he is not missing the 'rush' of winning, or trying to replace it by taking over the Astana team.

“There's absolutely no comparison of the rush of having success in a sporting event against standing on the sidelines. You can't compare the two but at the same time you can't win the Tour de France at 40 either,” he said.

“You have to understand that at some point the sun sets. I could well be past that point now and I'm just putting myself up for a lot of suffering. You can't do it forever but there are other ways to get that rush in life. When you talk about athletic comebacks, you think people miss that rush but that wasn't the reason I came back.”

At the end of the press conference, Danilo Di Luca gave all the riders pink bracelets that have been created to raise funds for the people affected by the recent earthquake in Di Luca Abruzzo region of central Italy.

Armstrong posed with the other riders wearing the bracelets and asked how the pink looked next to his yellow bracelet.

Perhaps he realised it will be the only pink he will wear in this year's Giro d'Italia.

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