Armstrong heads to Tour of Switzerland

Jun 11, 2010 - 2:56 PM By JAMEY KEATEN Associated Press Writer

LUGANO, Switzerland(AP) -- Lance Armstrong will test his climbing abilities this weekend at the Tour of Switzerland, his last race before the Tour de France.

The seven-time Tour de France winner and fellow cyclists will face tough Alpine climbs and time trials in the first and last stages of the nine-day event over 839 miles.

Armstrong, who won the Tour of Switzerland in 2001, will have solid RadioShack teammates at his side including fellow American Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloeden of Germany.

Alberto Contador of Spain, the odds-on favorite to collect his third Tour de France victory in July, is not taking part. He is riding in the Criterium du Dauphine, where he has faced a challenge from Armstrong's RadioShack teammate Janez Brajkovic of Slovenia.

Armstrong's preparations for the Tour de France haven't gone as he expected. He missed one race and pulled out of another because of illness, and crashed out of the Tour of California.

The Texan is coming off a third-place finish at the Tour de Luxembourg on Sunday.

The Swiss race, one of the best final warmups for the Tour de France, starts with a 4.7-mile prologue on Saturday. It ends on June 20 with a 16-mile time trial in and around the northern town of Liestal.

This being Switzerland, nearly every day features at least one climb. The hardest ride this year comes in Friday's sixth stage - a 132.5-mile trek through central Switzerland with three big climbs, including two so hard they defy classification.

Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara, who won last year, said his top priority in this Tour of Switzerland will be the prologue on Saturday. He is a time trial specialist.

Cancellara has been at the center of speculation that some riders may be cheating by using tiny motors hidden in their bike frames. He has denied that he won the Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders races this year with help of an electric bike.

Among other top title threats are Cancellara's Saxo Bank teammates, brothers Frank and Andy Schleck. Andy, the younger of the two, placed second in the 2009 Tour de France - a rung ahead of Armstrong, and one behind Contador.

Armstrong's longtime lieutenant, American George Hincapie, lines up as the leader of the BMC Racing team, while U.S. rider Tom Danielson heads the Garmin Transitions squad.

Armstrong wrote on Twitter that he had done a two-hour ride Friday on a time-trial bike, and was about to pack up for the trip to Switzerland.

The race comes as controversy swirls over whether the International Cycling Union is doing enough to stop drugs cheats - and whether its foes at France's anti-doping agency will have a role in anti-doping controls at the Tour de France.

On Thursday, Armstrong used an expletive in a tweet linked to an article saying Pierre Bordry, the head of the French anti-doping agency, wants to do more doping tests during the Tour de France.






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