Lance Armstrong is set to race for the first time with Alberto Contador, his teammate and rival from Spain, when he takes part in this month's Tour of Castilla y Leon as his preparation for his Tour de France return continues. Contador, who won the 2007 Tour and last year's Giro and Vuelta, and Armstrong, who is back from a three-and-a-half-year retirement, were not supposed to race together before the Tour de France in July.
Armstrong's participation in the Spanish race between March 23 and 27 means, however, that the seven-times Tour de France champion will miss the Criterium International later this month and therefore will not race in France before July. "The Astana Cycling team has confirmed that Lance Armstrong will return to Europe to continue his comeback season with races at Milan-Sanremo and the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon," read an Astana team statement.
Last year, Contador was unable to defend his Tour de France title after Astana was banned because of doping controversies. Contador is considered a threat to Armstrong's leadership of the team and has said his main objective this season was a second Tour victory. Last month, the Spaniard asked to race with Armstrong before the Tour in order to "test the team's unity". "At the conclusion of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, Armstrong will return to Austin, Texas, to resume training in the States," said Astana.
"Due to this training he will not compete in the Criterium International or the Tour of Flanders. It is yet to be decided which races he will participate in prior to the Giro d'Italia on May 9." * Reuters