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Fast start? Armstrong not so sure

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands — The Tour de France gets under way today, and Lance Armstrong doesn't expect to win the 5.5-mile prologue of what will be his last ride in cycling's premier event.

The short and mainly flat stage through the Dutch port of Rotterdam's city center doesn't feature major problems, but Armstrong has recently struggled in the discipline. He used to dominate time trials in his heyday.

Last year, his failure in the Annecy time trial hampered his chances in an attempt to win the Tour for the eighth time. Armstrong eventually finished third.

"I'm not going to win (today), I know that," Armstrong said. "These time trials … I don't know; it's just I've lost it."

Armstrong built his seven Tour wins with strong displays in the mountains and time trials. But at nearly 39, he lacks explosiveness in the race against the clock.

Armstrong said this Tour is one of the toughest he'll tackle, with riders going through seven dangerous and treacherous cobblestone sectors in the third stage.

"The first week, we can't have any mistakes," Armstrong said. "We can't lose time. I have to get through the first week neutral. There will be people, I think, that will be minutes behind.

"If you consider the first three or four stages in relation to the last four stages, it's a full race. There is three weeks of real racing. It's start to finish."

The Texan has had a complicated season without much time to practice. But he finished second at the Tour of Switzerland last month.

Among the prologue favorites are Olympic time trial champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, Bradley Wiggins and David Millar of Britain as well as Tony Martin of Germany.

"For sure, to win this stage is a big goal," Martin said. "Hopefully, I will be able to achieve this."

.Fast facts

Tour de France

When: Today through July 25, including two rest days (July 12 and 21)

Route: Prologue today, then 20 stages covering 3,642 kilometers (or 2,258 miles) through Netherlands, Belgium and France

TV: 11:30 a.m., Versus. The cable network offers an average of 14 hours of race action each day, including live coverage in the morning and a prime-time show.

Fast start? Armstrong not so sure 07/02/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 2, 2010 7:47pm]
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