Astana ready to play

Johan Bruyneel hopes for a Giro victory - by Leipheimer

Johan Bruyneel hopes for a Giro victory - by Leipheimer (Image credit: Sirotti)

Astana manager Johan Bruyneel has confirmed what many observers have already supposed: At the upcoming Giro d'Italia, the Kazakh team will be racing for an overall victory for Levi Leipheimer. "Levi certainly appears to be the strongest rider in our team," said Bruyneel two days before the Italian Grand Tour start in Venice.

On Wednesday, Armstrong ruled himself out of winning the race. "[Ivan] Basso, [Danilo] Di Luca, [Stefano] Garzelli, [Denis] Menchov, [Carlos] Sastre and my teammate Leipheimer are ahead. The collarbone fracture slowed me down," he said.

Bruyneel was quick to point out that Astana would face stiff competition, especially from the Italian teams. "The strongest on our team doesn't mean an automatic win," he said. "There are a lot of other teams and riders who have made the Giro their number one goal. Look at Liquigas - I think Ivan [Basso] and some of his teammates have rode some stages two to three times. I read that they did the team time trial a few times. There's no doubt that it's going to be a hard and competitive race. We'll see how the race unfolds and when there are good opportunities, we'll play!"

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