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Merckx hopes for Armstrong of 2005

By:
Gregor Brown
Published:
November 25, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 19:43 BST
Edition:
Latest Cycling News, November 25, 2008
Eddy Merckx, here in the 1969 season, hopes for a strong Lance Armstrong return

Eddy Merckx, here in the 1969 season, hopes for a strong Lance Armstrong return

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Cycling's great Eddy Merckx wants to see the return of a dominating Lance Armstrong in the Giro...

Cycling's great Eddy Merckx wants to see the return of a dominating Lance Armstrong in the Giro d'Italia. The five-time Tour de France champion rated his chances high, but has concerns over the American's long break from racing, according to Tuttosport.

"Let's hope the return sees him win and not only to launch his foundation against cancer," said Merckx during a visit to Torino, Italy.

Merckx retired from cycling in 1978 at the age of 33. Pundits rate him as the most complete cyclist in the sport's history. USA's Armstrong, with seven overall wins, topped his record in the Tour de France.

Armstrong retired at the end of the 2005 Tour, but announced his comeback for the 2009 season this September. Merckx, who keeps in close contact with the Texan, believes it will be a tough battle in the Giro and the Tour.

"A three-year pause is a lot, but he is special. I know that he is training intensely. It will be a great battle and a beautiful occasion for the fans.

Armstrong will race under the direction of Belgian Johan Bruyneel at Team Astana. His team boasts Spaniard Alberto Contador, who is one of five riders – along with Merckx – to have won all three Grand Tours.

"Contador is an outstanding talent, a young rider with a lot of value and climber that goes strong in time trials. These are the qualities that make a difference."

Merckx previously stated in an interview that he did not believe Armstrong will race the Tour.

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