Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong does not consider himself a challenger for this year's Giro d'Italia, and will instead devote himself to helping his Astana team win the race. "I feel better than I expected but I don't have the condition to win against these guys," he warned.
At the pre-Giro press conference in Venice on Thursday, Armstrong played down his chances against the other seated Grand Tours winners Carlos Sastre, Ivan Basso, Gilberto Simoni, Danilo Di Luca, Damiano Cunego, Stefano Garzelli and Denis Menchov.
"It's been a while since I did a race of this magnitude. I know the Giro from its history and its former winners. In 15 years, I never had the opportunity, or I didn't take the opportunity to do the Giro. I'm excited. I'm fit enough. I'm ready to be here."
The broken collarbone he sustained in March is just a bad memory now. "I don't feel anything. It's not gonna move now. But I need to continue to recover the condition. It seems like we're building up. I have no side effect other than the time off the bike."
Asked by Italian reporters to give one name as the favourite for the Giro, he smiled and said, "Ivan Leipheimer". That means two favourites: Ivan Basso and Levi Leipheimer. He sees his role more as team player. "Personally I'd like to win a stage but I don't know if I can and if I'm fit enough. As a team we target the top three or the top five. Levi Leipheimer can do it – he time trials well, he climbs well."
Talking about his team led to the subject of unpaid wages at Astana – Armstrong himself never made the name of Astana. "It's a slight disruption," he admitted. "I haven't seen any ill effect at dinner table. I was surprised to see how motivated the guys are. I'm optimistic that a solution will be found."
There's obviously a link between Astana's financial problems and the recent announcement that Armstrong wants to start his own team where he'd be the manager, the directeur sportif and a rider as well. "I wouldn't say we are planning it more now but earlier than expected," he said. "There's no secret that Johan [Bruyneel] and I have a long friendship and partnership.
"It's hard to find 15 million dollars. No deal is done until you find them. We think we can organise the best team in the world like we've done for ten years with US Postal and Discovery Channel. We would look at a ten-year commitment. It's all a dream until we get the funding."
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