Lance Armstrong is in better shape than last year, but Alberto Contador is still the favourite this year, according to RadioShack team director Johan Bruyneel. The experienced Belgian led both riders in last year's Tour de France, where Contador finished first and Armstrong was third.
"Contador is the favourite because he has shown that he is above everyone else. Lance is better than last year but we still don't know if it will be enough to beat Alberto" Bruyneel told Spanish newspaper Marca.
"This year is different for Armstrong. This year is different for Armstrong because right now he is a rider starting off his season and last year he was still finding out what it meant to be a rider again,” Bruyneel explained. “His body was not accustomed to long, hard workouts, and he had lost the usual benchmarks after being retired three years.”
Armstrong will make his European season debut today in the Vuelta a Murcia, where he will meet other Tour de France contenders Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky).
Bruyneel said that the seven-time Tour winner would concentrate on the time trial stage and not the overall title. “He's going to test himself in the time trial and try for a good result, but winning is another matter because there are other people who are very well prepared," he said.
The time trial stage is on Saturday and is on a totally flat 22km course. Menchov, Wiggins and Zabriskie are also expected to target that stage.