Cycling: Lance Armstrong to have surgery today

Associated Press
Wednesday 25 March 2009 11:20

Lance Armstrong is planning to ride in the Giro d'Italia in May even though his broken collarbone is more serious than first thought.

"I think the Giro is still very doable," the seven-time Tour de France champion said late yesterday during a conference call with reporters. "This is definitely a setback, no doubt. It's the biggest setback I've ever had in my cycling career, so it's a new experience for me."

Although initial indications were it was a clean break, the 37-year-old American cyclist said new tests in Austin yesterday showed "multiple pieces" of broken bone.

He will have surgery today, and Austin sports medicine specialist Dr. Douglas Elenz, an orthopedic surgeon, will insert a plate to stabilise the collarbone.

"I think they try to put the puzzle back together," Armstrong said.

Armstrong crashed on Monday in the first stage of the Vuelta of Castilla and Leon race in northern Spain. He flew home to Austin yesterday and went straight to visit Elenz.

After surgery, Armstrong will take a mandatory 72-hour rest period. Then the surgeon will determine if Armstrong can get on an indoor training bike to resume his workouts.

Although the recovery typically takes four to six weeks, Armstrong hopes his will be faster.

"It's a very common cycling injury," he said. "You hear of guys who race two weeks later, you hear of guys who race two months later."

The Giro runs from 9-31 May. The Tour de France is 4-26 July.

Armstrong said he was frustrated the injury happened just as he was getting into top shape. He was among the top 10 riders for much of the race on Monday before he crashed about 12 miles from the end of the stage. Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel said Armstrong hit the ground hard with his head, breaking his helmet.

"I felt like my condition was really coming to a point where I was going to be able to ride in the front of the races," he said. "It's the biggest setback I've ever hard in my cycling career. ... It's a new experience for me."

But he insisted it won't change his plans for the Giro or compromise his training for his return to the Tour, where he won seven consecutive titles from 1999-2006.

"I don't think this changes anything for the Tour de France," Bruyneel said earlier yesterday in Spain. "A broken collarbone in the month of March does not at all compromise the start of the Tour de France or your performance in the Tour de France."

Still, the injury likely will force a shift in strategy for the Giro.

"Being at the start of the Giro is no problem," Bruyneel said. "But he has to have at least a decent level to be in the race and to compete at a certain level. ... Now it's almost clear that he's not going to be able to be a contender but we just have to change our focus and try to do the Giro, if he can get to the start, with another mentality."

Armstrong, diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain in 1996, has said the primary focus of his comeback is to spread his Livestrong message.

Asked if he felt his comeback was doomed when he crashed, Armstrong admitted he was a bit stunned at first.

"Lying in the ditch in that situation, yeah, but I think that's normal. You sort of ask yourself what the hell am I doing here?" Armstrong said.

"But laying in that ditch with a shattered collarbone was a lot better than other health scares I've had."

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