Lance Armstrong visits the 2006 Tour de France

Lance Armstrong has arrived at the Tour de France to give his former Discovery Channel team-mates a much-needed boost.

The seven-time winner flew in by helicopter to Gap this morning and sat in on the morning meeting on the team bus, then he emerged to talk to reporters.

Last week Armstrong insulted France?s World Cup footballers by saying: ?All their players tested positive... for being assholes.? This week he was more conciliatory, claiming it had been a joke and that he hoped people could see the funny side. But would he be having coffee with Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc? Definitely not, was his answer.

So who does Armstrong think will win the Tour? ?I hope another American can win and I hope Landis can do it,? he said.

What?s Discovery Channel?s problem this year? ?It?s not what we expected ? perhaps more of a mental problem than a physical problem. I came to the start to encourage them,? Armstrong said.

"I just tried to reiterate that I believe in them, and while I know that it's obviously been a difficult year relative to what we were used to, it's still the same group of guys, still great riders. But that I understand that this is a transition time so, you know now is not the time to be critical or say what's the problem? Now is the time to say that I believe in them, especially relative to the field. I still think that we have some of the best riders in the race."

Yesterday Armstrong rode up Alpe d?Huez with Brokeback Mountain actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who was doing his best to conceal his identity behind large shades and Discovery Channel and 10/2 kit at the start in Gap.

Armstrong will ride in the team car for tomorrow?s stage then leave the Tour and return for the finale in Paris.

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