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Ullrich and Leblanc happy with Armstrong's participation

After Lance Armstrong finally ended the speculation about whether he was going to race the Tour de France this year, the reactions from his closest rival Jan Ullrich and race organiser Jean-Marie Leblanc have both been positive. With the Tour now definitely on Armstrong's agenda, Ullrich is looking forward to another tussle with the Boss. "The best should start in the Tour," said Ullrich to dpa from his training base in Tuscany. "A possible victory would therefore be even more valuable."

T-Mobile's team manager Olaf Ludwig commented, "I had counted on it anyway. Why should the sponsor leave its best horse in the stable for the most important race of the season?" Ludwig's words were echoed by T-Mobile's Andreas Klöden, who said, "I have always said: he will ride. I'm happy that he's starting."

Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc told L'Equipe that Armstrong's decision to go for seven Tours this year showed "a certain degree of panache" as Armstrong could have waited another year before doing it.

"If Armstrong hadn't come, we would have started from zero with challengers by the name of Ullrich, Basso, Heras, Klöden, Mayo and, I hope, the new Italian pearl Cunego. One would have been incapable of designating a favourite. In this case, we come back to a situation that we already knew with Indurain and then Armstrong. One single favourite against the rest. I like both forms of the Tour de France."

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