Lance Armstrong’s comeback tour left New York on Wednesday afternoon and arrived in Las Vegas in time for him to finish 22nd in the Cross Vegas cyclo-cross race.

The following morning he was at the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas, where he gave his second press conference in 24 hours, flanked by anti-doping expert Don Catlin, who is going to monitor Armstrong next season.

There was a tense few minutes when Greg LeMond took his seat in the front row and fixed Armstrong with a steely glare before launching into a monologue about doping in cycling.

During the press conference Armstrong spoke about the 2009 Tour de France and said: “I am looking forward to the start [in Monaco] because it’s where I used to live [Nice]. There’s also the Catalonia stage, where I also used to live, and I am looking forward to the Mont Ventoux.”

Armstrong seemed to confirm the rumours of a stage start and finish in Barcelona and a stage on the mountain in Provence. The Tour organisers usually like to keep details of the route very close to their chest until the official announcement in October, but Armstrong appears to have let the cat out of the bag.

On Friday, a local official in the Vaucluse region confirmed the rumour that Mont Ventoux is to be on the Tour route, which will be unveiled in full on October 22. It appears the stage will not be a time trial as originally rumoured but a road stage, taking place on the final Saturday of the race, the day before the traditional stage finish in Paris.

imageGreg LeMond: steely gaze

WHAT ARMSTRONG SAID…

About his comeback and Alberto Contador

“I’m not sure if I can be competitive. Four years is a long time to be off the bike. I think he [Alberto Contador] is the best rider in the world right now and I hope he stays with the team. I expected to be asked about this [the potential clash] in the next few weeks but I’m looking forward to a strong partnership.

“I wouldn’t expect to be leader if I wasn’t the strongest, so I’ll follow the orders of Johan [Bruyneel]. And there’s Levi [Leipheimer]. Contador won the Vuelta on time bonuses. On the road they were equal. Levi is one of the US’s greatest cyclists of all time.”

About Astana

“I am so loyal to Johan, so loyal to Trek. Both of those were already in place so it was a natural fit. It was mostly out of loyalty to those two. There’s no salary, no contract, no bonuses.

“There were concerns about [putting] Livestrong on the jersey but after that, we were done.

“I will ride for at least one year. I don’t want to say one and out but there are other endurance things I would like to do after cycling.”

On drugs

“Beyond today I don’t think it’s healthy to keep talking about drugs.

“There’s no point in comparing performances of different generations.

“We don’t say cycling is finished, we move on. We must get back to respecting riders and their performances.

“It’s time to move on, time for the Tour to be the great event it’s always been.”

LANCE’S 2009 RACE SCHEDULE

Armstrong also used the Vegas conference to confirm his participation in the 2009 Amgen Tour of California – arguably America’s most prominent stage race. Calfornia is now the fourth date on the Texan’s confirmed race schedule so far, which also includes the Tour Down Under, Tour de France and Leadville 100 MTB race.

Armstrong has also expressed interest in he possibility of riding the 2009 Giro d’Italia in May. The Astana team, and Armstrong, have also been invited to next year’s Tour of Britain.

Armstrong’s confirmed 2009 race dates

January 18-25 – Tour Down Under

February 14-22 – Tour of California

July 4-26 – Tour de France (pending Astana team invite)

August 15 – Leadville 100 MTB race

CW’s Stuart Bowers also raced the Cross Vegas race. Read his blog on what it was like to race Armstrong on cyclingweekly.co.uk next week

RELATED LINKS

Armstrong’s comeback starts in Australia

Wednesday Comment (September 24)

Contador says riding with Lance could be difficult

UCI president rubbishes Armstrong Tour buyout claims

Bruyneel talks up Armstrong’s chances

The Wednesday Comment, Armstrong Edition (September 10)

Tour de France: Lance can race in 2009

Contador: Lance could win eighth Tour

Lance confirms 2009 comeback

Armstrong: No smoke without fire?