Lance Armstrong is on track to win his eighth Tour de France this July, according to Italian rider Ivan Basso. Armstrong finished 12th overall in his first three-week race in over three years, the Giro d'Italia, last month.
"He placed 12th at the Giro without being in true form and with a broken collarbone the month before," Basso told Cyclingnews. "Had he arrived in form he could have raced for the win but now he has the Giro d'Italia in his legs and I think he can win the Tour."
Armstrong returned to cycling after a three-year retirement last winter but a crash in teh first stage of the Castilla y León on March 23 affected his Giro preparations. He finished the Giro in Rome on May 31, 16 minutes behind winner Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and 12 minutes back on Basso (Liquigas) in fifth.
"He will go like a beast." - Basso on Armstrong
The Tour de France starts July 4 in Monaco, Armstrong's first Grand Depart since he won his seventh consecutive title in 2005. "He will ride the Tour like no one else because he has the experience of seven Tour de France wins. He will go like a beast," added Basso.
The team has three classification riders with Armstrong, 2007 winner Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer. Armstrong and Contador have only raced together once this year, the 160 kilometres prior to Armstrong's crash in Castilla y León. Speculation has been rife for months that the lack of hours on the road together and strong individual desires to win may damage the team's chances.
Basso believes this won't be the case. "He won't have problems with Contador and Leipheimer because the team is guided by the best, Johan Bruyneel. Look at all the Giro, Tour and Vueltas he has won over the years," he said.
Astana's manager has directed teams to eight Tour victories, two Giro d'Italia titles and a pair of in the Vuelta a España victories. Basso raced for Bruyneel briefly in 2007 before leaving the team following investigations linking him to Operación Puerto were made public.
Basso recently pulled out of the Criterium du Dauphiné Libéré due to a virus from which he has now recovered and is now taking a break ahead of the second half of the 2009 season. He will target the Vuelta a España, August 29 to September 20.