Lance Armstrong says he will go into the 2010 Tour de France better prepared to challenge for an eighth yellow jersey, but he believes reigning champion Alberto Contador will be "very hard" to beat.
"I think I will be a bit better in 2010," Armstrong, who returned to competition in 2009 after retiring in 2005, told Velo monthly magazine Friday.
"In 2009 I came back after a three-and-a-half year break. The body needs time to get used to the stress of competition, and to the Tour itself."
Armstrong, a cancer survivor who went on to win a record seven Tour de France titles consecutively from 1999-2005, retired after his final Tour triumph only to return to the sport last year.
He joined the Astana team, where Spaniard Contador was already riding, but their cohabitation was not a comfortable one and the cracks began to widen during the Tour, in which Armstrong finished an impressive third place.
Towards the end of the race Armstrong announced he would lead a new team, RadioShack, for the 2010 edition and he has already signed the nucleus of Astana including Levi Leipheimer, Andreas Klöden and Haimar Zubeldia.
Armstrong is set to make an appearance at the October 14 presentation in Paris for next year's race, which he said he will approach differently by having several leaders in the team.
"There will be a few different leaders in the team, myself, Levi (Leipheimer), Klöden, Zubeldia, strong riders who also know how to ride for the team. Man to man, Alberto (Contador) will be very hard to beat."
Armstrong is expected to make his official race debut with RadioShack at the Tour Down Under in Australia in January, but he is uncertain whether to race at the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy), which he did earlier this year for the first time.
He added: "First of all we've got a training camp in California in February, at Agoura Hills near Los Angeles. Then we have to decide whether we do the Giro d'Italia or the Tour of California, both of which are in May.
"RadioShack is an American sponsor but the Giro is good preparation for the Tour. RadioShack don't really care, they told me: 'Do what you have to to have the best possible form for the Tour de France'."
After California Armstrong said he will race the Tour of Murcia, in Spain in March and he could "maybe race a few classics", citing the Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day classic.
In June Armstrong will remain at his base in Europe so he can reconnoitre key mountain stages of the 2010 Tour de France. And he hinted he would compete at the Dauphiné Libéré, a key one-week warm-up for the Tour which is held in early June.
"We just have to decide whether to race the Giro (d'Italia) or not, that's the only uncertainty," he added. "The Dauphiné would be good. It's an important race for the Tour with some good climbs and a hard time trial."
Asked whether he would race on till 2011, Armstrong - a professional triathlete before focusing solely on the road - said he might be tempted to take the RadioShack cause into some other cycling-related sports.
"I've said I would be doing some off-road events. I quite fancy doing an IronMan. In Hawaii. Or Nice, though I don't really know what the course is like."
© AFP 2009