Lance Armstrong will return to the first one-day classic of the season, Milan-San Remo, this weekend backed by a largely eastern European contingent of Astana riders.
The seven-time Tour de France champion last competed at San Remo in 2002 and his participation in one of cycling’s five one-day “monuments” is likely to prompt huge interest in what will be his return to European roads for the first time since 2005.
On Saturday Armstrong will be flanked by three Kazakhs – Assan Bazayev, Maxim Iglinskiy and Dmitriy Muravyev – one Ukrainian, Yaroslav Popovych, and one Lithuanian in Tomas Vaitkus.
But just what the 37-year-old American’s aims are for the race, which regularly approaches the 300km mark, are unknown.
In each of his participations Armstrong has always finished but has never managed to get near the podium. On his first real comeback year, in 1999 – shortly after he had battled cancer – he finished 117th. In 2000 he finished 108th and in 2002 Armstrong finished 44th in the same time as Italian winner Mario Cipollini.
Armstrong is also scheduled to race next week at the Tour of Castilla y Leon in Spain, where he will line up alongside Levi Leipheimer and defending two-time champion Alberto Contador.
Astana team for Milan-San Remo:
Lance Armstrong (USA), Assan Bazayev (Kaz), Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz), Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz), Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Gregory Rast (Swi), Michael Schär (Swi), Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu).
© AFP 2009