Teams arrive Down Under, Armstrong's touchdown date secret

Lance Armstrong is keeping his travel plans to himself

Lance Armstrong is keeping his travel plans to himself (Image credit: View over Abinger Hammer cricket ground as the peloton ride by fans in the Surrey countryside sitting in their local watering hole)

The first of the ProTour squads have arrived in Australia for the upcoming Tour Down Under, which begins January 20, but the date of the much anticipated arrival of seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong has been kept a secret. Race organisers are hoping to avoid a crush of media and fans at the airport.

Armstrong's Astana team is due to arrive this Sunday to begin adjusting to the time change and training in the warm temperatures, but Armstrong, who has been preparing in Hawaii, will not come until later in the week, according to The Age.

Silence Lotto's Mario Aerts was one of the first to arrive along with Glenn D'Hollander, Pieter Jacobs, Oliver Kaisen, Jonas Ljungblad and Tom Stubbe. GC hopeful Matthew Lloyd is currently competing in the Australian open road championships in Ballarat. Aerts said the presence of Armstrong will add some pressure for the racers. "Definitely it's going to be more pressure on everybody because he is here."

Team Columbia's defending champion André Greipel arrived Thursday with fellow German Bernard Eisel, and the summer weather was a welcome contrast to the subzero temperatures and snow they left behind in Europe. "We came without the team because we want to get used to the conditions and time difference. Bernard and me are the only two training here, but it's perfect for us.," Greipel said to Adelaide Now.

The Tour Down Under grew last year when it was added to the ProTour calendar, but its prestige was buoyed when Armstrong announced he would make his return to the sport after a three-year hiatus beginning in the Australian event. 'Armstrong fever' has begun to grip the nation, and broadcaster SBS is hoping to garner a worldwide audience of 150 million thanks to agreements with Sky Sports and USA's Versus.

Versus commentator Phil Liggett arrived in Australia last week to call the Jayco Bay Classic, and will continue in that role for the Tour Down Under. According to Fox News, Liggett will also be recording daily "Armstrong updates" during the Tour.

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