Cycling: Armstrong '50-50' to start next year's Tour de France

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The Independent Online

Lance Armstrong's return to the Tour de France next year was described by his team manager Johan Bruyneel yesterday as being only "50 per cent certain". "It all depends on his condition and how he goes in the first few races of the season," the Astana team manager said. "The only certainty for now is that he will be doing the Tour of Italy [in May]."

When Armstrong announced his comeback in September, his stated aim was to win an eighth Tour. But the organisers' neutrality over his comeback continued yesterday, with no mention made of the Texan during their speeches at the 2009 Tour route presentation here. "It [Armstrong's return] is neither a good thing or a bad thing for the Tour," was all race director Christian Prudhomme would say.

The 2009 route, which has a summit finish on Mont Ventoux as a high point, should not deter Mark Cavendish, the winner of four stages in 2008, from aiming to become the first Briton ever to take the green points jersey. "The first aim is for Mark to finish, because he hasn't done that yet," team manager Rolf Aldag said. "But he's got the ability to fight for the green jersey, by looking for points from the word go, fighting for 15th when he's tired as well as going for the win when he's feeling good. We want to get as many points as possible in the first two weeks."

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