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For most of us, popping out for an Italian meal would probably mean a walk or a drive down to the local high street, but for Lance Armstrong it clearly means something different. Or, at least it did yesterday when the American flew from his base in Spain to Italy for a two-hour dinner with team-mate Paolo Savoldelli in Cesenatico.
During the meal of steak and gnocchi, Armstrong gave his impressions of the racing so far at the Giro to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I haven't missed a single stage," he said. "I organise my training and day around it. Up to now it's been a really great race. All the best riders are at centre stage and that seems to me to be a positive effect of the ProTour.
"The only thing that I would say to my friend [race organiser Angelo] Zomegnan is not to make the finishes so dangerous in the future. I'm always concerned about the safety of riders."
Asked about Discovery Channel's Giro leader Savoldelli, Armstrong said that "he has ridden very well, he's a complete rider with a lot of experience. I see him finishing on the podium in Milan. It's a shame that he lost a few precious seconds on one stage, otherwise he would have been in pink already."
Like most other observers, Armstrong's favourite for the title is Ivan Basso, who finished third to him at the Tour de France last year. "To be honest, I was really astounded by his performance in the Florence time trial. I knew that he had improved but he went well beyond my expectations. If he rides like that in the Tour and is as strong on the climbs he will be very difficult to beat."
Before returning to Rimini airport to fly back to Girona in his private jet, Armstrong also paid tribute to the late Marco Pantani, who came from Cesenatico. "I'm here in his city. I will never forget how I felt that Saturday night when someone called me to say that he had died. My thoughts go out to him."
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