Merckx: Armstrong's return good for cycling and Giro

Eddy Merckx notes positive impact of Armstrong's return

Eddy Merckx notes positive impact of Armstrong's return (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Cycling legend Eddy Merckx sees the return of Lance Armstrong as positive for the cycling world. He specifically pointed to the Giro d'Italia, which the America announced he would race, as gaining from the added publicity.

"There were 150 journalists at the [Team Astana] presentation. His return provoked great interest. It is good for cycling," Merckx said to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Armstrong, who retired after winning the 2005 Tour de France, announced his comeback for the 2009 season this September. Shortly after the announcement, he decided to participate in the 2009 Giro d'Italia. It will be his first time to race the three-week Italian stage race.

"It is a complete novelty; he's never done the Giro. He will introduce a lot of publicity for the Giro d'Italia. ... There is a lot of interest in it. For example, I will go to see it."

Armstrong will face his first Grand Tour in three and a half years and hard competition from the likes of Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre, Cadel Evans and Damiano Cunego. Basso, who challenged him for the Tour de France title on two occasions, could be favourite number one in his home tour.

"They are two classy riders, but it is a mistake to restrict protagonists to them. There are others. Too bad [Riccardo] Riccò is not race, he would have lit up the course. [Danilo] Di Luca will do more than just watch the race. Cunego already won the Giro d'Italia and he can re-win it.

"Three years are long [for Armstrong], also for the muscles and heart. It will not be easy to restart, but Axel [Merckx, his son - ed.] said he is training like a maniac."

Merckx won the Giro d'Italia five times, including 25 stage wins and 78 days – the record – in the maglia rosa.

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