By Agence France Presse
The Astana cycling team on Tuesday named an international line-up to support Americans Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer in the Giro d’Italia, which starts in Venice on Saturday.
Six nations are represented in the group containing Leipheimer and seven-time Tour de France champion Armstrong, who has returned to the sport this season after retiring in 2005.
Leipheimer and Armstrong took first and second place in last week’s Tour of the Gila in New Mexico, where they competed alongside compatriot Chris Horner.
It was Armstrong’s first competitive appearance since he broke his collarbone in Spain at the end of March.
Despite his second-placed finish, the Texan was quick to play down his chances in the Giro.
“Of course breaking my collarbone has changed my ambitions for the Giro, but I look forward to that race,” he said. “I can ride, without pressure, in an event that I’ve always wanted to do and I can try to help Levi win.
“It would be an amazing thing for an American to win the Tour of Italy again. I’d be pleased to be there and help.”
Andy Hampsten’s (7-Eleven) 1988 Giro remains the only time an American has stood atop the final podium in Milan.
Armstrong will also be joined in Italy by former Discovery Channel team-mates Jose Luis Rubiera of Spain and the Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych.
Leipheimer, who has won the Tour of California and the Tour of Castilla y Leon this season, finished 18th in last year’s Giro, while Armstrong will be making his first appearance at the prestigious event.
Astana team for the Giro
Lance Armstrong (USA)
Jani Brajkovic (SLO)
Chris Horner (USA)
Levi Leipheimer (USA)
Steve Morabito (SUI)
Daniel Navarro (ESP)
Yaroslav Popovych (UKR)
Jose Luis Rubiera (ESP)
Andrey Zeits (KAZ)