Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong said his 12th-placed finish in the Giro d'Italia, which ended on Sunday in Rome, was "promising" ahead of this year's French test.
The 37-year-old American, who broke a collarbone in a crash on the Tour of Castilla and Leon in March, and his Astana team had insisted that he had not come into his first ever Tour of Italy looking for victory.
"I came in open-minded. I did not know what to expect, obviously because of the crash in Castilla and Leon, the time off the bike and the trip over here," Armstrong said.
"In my view it has been a hard three weeks. In the second half of the race I showed that I was certainly getting better and I think we can take that away from here. It is promising for June and July."
Armstrong dismissed expectations that he would have returned to the cycling world with victories in the biggest events.
"I may have disappointed some fans and people in the press room expecting that I immediately should start winning big races," he said. "That is crazy. I am almost 38 years old. Both of my feet are firmly on the ground. It's taken a lot of work up to this point but we might ride strong and be in the front in July."
Armstrong added: "The style of racing in Italy is different, but I liked it.
"Despite some dangerous stages, it was a great race. The Giro del Centenario brought us to the most beautiful places of the country. The people here are enthusiastic."
Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel said he hoped the matter of some unpaid salaries would be resolved so the team could go on and compete in the Tour of Luxembourg, the Dauphine Libere, the Tour of Switzerland and the Tour de France.
"I am hopeful and confident that we can ride those races," said Bruyneel.
The financial woes that left salaries unpaid are not completely resolved yet.
"I hope that the team sponsors will meet the deadline for the bank guarantee and the payments. Moreover the UCI (International Cycling Union) now wants more guarantees about the team for the rest of the year.
"The UCI will decide soon about the near future of the team. We hope to know more in the coming days. The best solution is that we can continue with our current structure. I expect that we will have a team at the start of the Tour de France," he added.
© 2009 AFP