Armstrong makes good Tour start but what next?

July 4, 2010

“Since I started, I’ve been at the front of my sport,” Lance Armstrong told me before the start of the Tour de France.

Whether you like him or not, it’s quite true.

At almost 39, Armstrong is still in the game and rode impressively in Saturday’s 8.9-km prologue in Rotterdam.

“Step by step, it’s getting better. I’m pretty content with it,” he said.

The sweetest thing for Armstrong may have been the fact he beat Alberto Contador for the first time in a time trial since his comeback last year.

The Spaniard, arguably the strongest Grand Tour rider, lost five seconds to Armstrong, who is set to be the man of the first week.

Tuesday’s tricky stage to Arenberg, featuring over 13 kms of cobbled sections, is probably where Armstrong could take more time off Contador. It could also be Armstrong’s chance to wear the yellow jersey for the first time since 2005 –- last year he missed out on the coveted jersey by a whisker after the team time trial.

Could this be a more realistic goal than actually winning the race?

In L’Equipe, Gilles Simon seems to believe anything is now possible.

Astana manager Yvon Sanquer, a man of few words, does not look that convinced.

“We expected Lance to be the man to watch in the first week because it is the time when he can take some time off Alberto. It will be much more difficult in the later parts of the Tour,” said Sanquer.

With climbers like Andy Schleck or Ivan Basso having lost ground in the prologue, the race’s scenario could suit Contador perfectly.

The Schleck brothers said if one of them were to win the Tour, they would have to attack and this kind of script is not to Armstrong’s liking.

The American showed at the Tour of Switzerland last month that he could keep up with the best, but he could suffer from repeated attacks from Basso, the Schlecks and Contador if they decide to cause havoc in the steep Pyrenees climbs.

PHOTO: Radioshack rider Lance Armstrong cycles to take the fourth place the 8.9km prologue of the Tour de France cycling race in Rotterdam, July 3, 2010. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

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