Armstrong on form

Lance Armstrong took his first steps towards a historic sixth victory in the Tour de France this week. He opened his 2004 racing schedule by riding in the Volta ao Algarve on Wednesday. The Algarve race is several weeks before his usual season opener, the Tour of Murcia in Spain, but, according to his coach, this fits in well with the cycling star’s plans.

US Postal Service team director, Johan Bruyneel, revealed that for Armstrong, “the main attraction of this race is the date because we’re starting racing earlier this year. The Algarve weather is also good and the roads are, too.” He went on to say that the race was a gentle opener, ideal for easing Armstrong into competition, and commented: “It’s good to start in a relaxed way, without too much pressure. It’s not a very hard race.”

Eight riders from the US Postal Service team are taking part in the Volta ao Algarve, including new signings José Azevedo, Patrick McCarty, Daniel Rincon and Benjamin Noval. “The team is in pretty decent shape,” Bruyneel said. He was keen, however, not to underestimate the competition, claiming that the biggest threat in the race would come from Portuguese teams and, in particular, Milaneza-MSS.

See next week’s The Resident for a full tour report.