Five time Tour de France winner and superstar cyclist Lance Armstrong has confirmed his participation in the Tour de Algarve cycling event next month, in a major boost for the region. Armstrong’s US Postal team director Johan Bruyneel explained that the cyclist will begin his build-up for an assault on a sixth successive Tour de France triumph by riding in the five-day competition, taking place in the region between February 18 and 22.
In previous years, Armstrong has started his season by riding in Spain’s Tour of Murcia at the beginning of March. But he revealed that he had decided to race in Portugal after organisers agreed to include a 20km time-trial.
Speaking about his 2004 race schedule, Armstrong said: “We’ll be starting in Portugal, then to Murcia like we’ve always done, Milan-San Remo, perhaps, Criterium International, Bicicleta Vasca and the Tour de France.”
The news of such a high profile participant in the Tour de Algarve was welcomed by cycling enthusiasts and by the region’s tourism authority. RTA President Heldér Martins spoke to The Resident about his delight at the announcement, saying: “I am very excited – this is an excellent opportunity to promote the Algarve internationally.”
Martins’ delight follows heavy criticism of the RTA after the low key inauguration of the Algarve stadium and the recent cancellation of both the Almond Blossom Cross Country race and the Football Winter Cup. Then he was accused of failing in his role of promoting the Algarve as an all-year sports destination; now he can breathe a sigh of relief as he prepares to welcome a star who is sure to attract world wide media attention as he cycles across the region.