Armstrong picks Basso as Tour de France favourite

Confirms presence at 2006 Tour

By Tim Maloney, European Editor, in Tabbiano Terme, Italy

Back in Europe for a birthday cycling trip with a good friend from Austin, Texas, a relaxed and cheerful Lance Armstrong spent a day with Discovery Channel cycling team at the 2006 Giro d'Italia. On a sunny spring Thursday midday at the Hotel Boomerang at Tabbiano Terme, nestled in the green “Colle Parmense” hills outside of Parma, Italy, all-time Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong spent a few minutes with Cyclingnews before he headed off with his Discovery Channel homeys to the Giro d'Italia's Stage 5 Team Time Trial from Piacenza to Cremona, where he would ride shotgun for Discovery Channel d.s. Sean Yates. Earlier that Thursday, Lance had gone on a 90 minute ride with the Discovery Channel guys. shared a team meal, then had a brief chat with us.

Cyclingnews: Lance, there are seven weeks to go before the Tour de France. How do you see the first Tour since 1999 without Lance Armstrong unfolding? The last time we spoke, you thought that Jan Ullrich would win by three minutes.

LA: Now, times have changed...I can't criticise Jan because apparently he's been injured. I'm detached enough now that I catch up...for example, in the past, I would have read Cyclingnews five times a day for results, or for pictures or the news, etcetera, etcetera. Now, I might check Cyclingnews and look at other news about cycling a couple of times a week and a lot of time I'm playing catch-up. Apparently, Ullrich has been injured and didn't start racing until the (Tour of) Romandie, which is way too late to start racing (for the Tour). And they say he's a little heavy, although I haven't seen him. So it seems like Basso's ahead in his preparation.

Then again, Basso's got a risky program to try to win the Giro and the Tour. There's a lot of pressure there at CSC for Basso. So I've changed my opinion; I think now Basso's the favourite to win the Tour de France now.

CN: Will you be at the Tour de France this year?

LA: Yes, I'll be there the last week.

CN: Will you be there in Paris?

LA: Yeah...I won't be on the Champs-Elysees, but I will be at the Tour and have a presence within the team, but I won't be credentialed, I won't be hanging out in the village depart. I'd rather hang with my guys; positive, progressive people. That's my team, that's my cause, that's my family.

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