Lance Armstrong to be fit for Tour de France - manager

May still ride Giro d'Italia

Lance Armstrong will recover from a broken collarbone in time to bid for his eighth Tour de France title in July, and may even compete in the Giro d'Italia in May, his team manager said Tuesday.

"A broken collarbone in March does not change anything as regards the Tour de France," which starts on July 4, said Johan Bruyneel, the manager of Armstrong's Astana team. "For the moment, we are sticking largely with the same schedule. He was going to be leaving for the US after this race and then come back for the Giro, so for the moment nothing has changed," he told reporters before the start of the second stage of the Tour of Castilla y Leon in central Spain.

"Personally, I think it is still possible to take part in the Giro," which starts on May 9, but he is "still going to be less fit," said the Belgian.

The American cycling legend broke his collarbone when he fell along with several other riders about 20 kilometres (32 miles) from the finish line of the first stage of the Tour of Castilla y Leon on Monday.

A cancer survivor who went on to claim a record seven Tour de France crowns, Armstrong ended a three-and-a-half year retirement at the Tour Down Under in Australia in January.

The 37-year-old declared his goal this year is to win an eighth Tour de France title.

His injury "changes the way we approach the season from now until the Tour de France," said Bruyneel. But "in terms of being there at start of the Tour, it changes nothing at all."

He said the accident could have been much worse.

"Obviously, it's not a good thing, but his head hit the ground quite hard and his helmet was broken. A broken collarbone is not a bad outcome given the circumstances. It's one of the breaks that takes least time to heal," he said. "I think that he has faced much harder things than this. A broken collarbone, obviously it's not nice, but it's not the end of the world."

Doctors will decide in the coming days if Armstrong, who left for his home in Texas Tuesday, will have to undergo an operation, said Bruyneel.

Meanwhile, Armstrong's Astana teammates, American Levi Leipheimer and Alberto Contador of Spain, took first and second places respectively in the second stage of the Tour of Castilla y Leon Tuesday, an individual time trial in the town of Palencia.

Armstrong's return to the sport has sparked rumours of friction between him and Contador over who will be chosen to lead the Astana's team's challenge in the Tour de France. The Tour of Castilla y Leon was the first time the two have raced alongside each other with Astana.

© AFP 2009

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