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Last Updated: Monday, 30 May, 2005, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Armstrong hails Savoldelli form
Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong received a major boost when deputy Paolo Savoldelli won his second Giro d'Italia title on Sunday.

Armstrong, the Discovery Channel team leader, is aiming for his seventh and final Tour de France win this summer.

The American has always stressed the need for team work and was delighted with the pre-Tour form of Salvodelli.

"We viewed him as someone who had a lot of potential and a lot of experience," said Armstrong, 34. "He was a logical choice as team leader for the Giro."

Armstrong will start the Tour without his most experienced team-mate, Viaceslav Ekimov, who was forced out after crashing in training last month.

But the Texan will be assisted on French roads by some of the very best riders in the peloton.

As well as Savoldelli, he can draw on Ukraine's Yaroslav Popovych, who dominated the recent Tour of Catalunya.

To win a final Tour and then be able to stop immediately after is a dream
Lance Armstrong

Close friend and countryman George Hincapie will provide help on the flat, while Portugal's Jose Azevedo and Spain's Manuel Beltran and Jose Luis "Chechu" Rubiera will be key aides in the mountains.

Two more riders are still to be picked by team director Johan Bruyneel, possibly after next week's Dauphine Libere race which will mark Armstrong's return to the Pro Tour after a month of intensive training.

Germany's Jan Ullrich, the 1997 Tour winner and Armstrong's arch-rival since 1999, is likely to be the American's main concern again.

Other potential contenders faltered in the Giro, including Italian Ivan Basso and last year's Giro winner Damiano Cunego.

Gilberto Simoni finished second but the Italian climber has been left trailing in Armstrong's wake in the Tour in recent years.

"Jan is the big threat," Armstrong told Eurosport. "He's the one who wakes me up early every morning. He says he wants to beat me in the Tour de France.

"Well, this is his last chance."

Armstrong insisted he will definitely retire after the finish in Paris, whatever the outcome.

"If you lose one [Tour] at the age of 34, I don't think you have a great chance of winning one at 35," Armstrong said.

"There are no guarantees that I'll win, but I can tell you that I'm more excited than ever to race. For me, to win a final Tour and then be able to stop immediately after is a dream."

Basso wins Giro solo time trial
27 May 05 |  Cycling
Le Mevel takes stage 16 of Giro
25 May 05 |  Cycling

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