After pulling out of Paris-Nice with a sore throat following Stage 3, Discovery Channel's Lance Armstrong is back home in Girona, recovering in warmer conditions and looking forward to getting his season on track. His team manager Johan Bruyneel has confirmed that Armstrong will be back in time for the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), Tour of Georgia and Tour de France, but at the moment, they are the only races that are definites on his program.
"Lance was a bit worse this morning and was taking antibiotics," said Bruyneel in an interview with Het Nieuwsblad. "This first test was a disappointment. This was far from ideal. Lance did more kilometres in the car than in the race in the last four days. And then there was the terrible cold, as well as the hellishly short stages. Exactly all the elements that he didn't need to work on his condition. In normal circumstances, this was definitely the right race to begin with.
"When he noted in the hotel after the stage that he had a light fever, I was the first to say: 'Lance, pack your bags and fly home'. That virus was already in his body. I sent him away, just like a soigneur that also had the 'flu."
Bruyneel added that there was no point in racing when sick. "If you're not good, then it's better that you train instead of race."
Armstrong could return to competition in the Setmana Catalana, two days after Milan-San Remo. But Bruyneel will make that decision depending on how Armstrong recovers now. "I know him. With two or three weeks training he can reach acceptable form again. This is a small setback." The Discovery team manager compared this to the year 2000, when Armstrong had to forfeit the Setmana Catalana due to sickness. "His condition was also not good then. We have experience with these sorts of small setbacks. Then he restarted in Paris-Camembert."
It's still far too early in the season for Bruyneel to panic. "Ach, Ullrich, Basso, Mayo and Heras have also barely raced yet. He's at their level, so what?"