Although Lance Armstrong made his return to professional cycle racing at the Tour Down Under in January, the focus on the seven-time Tour de France was always going to intensify in his home country.

Armstrong finished the Tour of California on Sunday in seventh place, with Astana team-mate Levi Leipheimer winning the event for a third consecutive year.

Armstrong was happy to play super-domestique for team leader Leipheimer, and was seen on numerous occasions sat at the head of the bunch pounding away on the pedals for his compatriot.

“I’m tired, but I was very impressed with the event and I think I can speak on behalf of the other riders and directors that everyone enjoys the race,” Armstrong said after the final stage on Sunday. “Obviously we’d have preferred the weather to be a little different, but the crowds were simply amazing.”

“I spent 15 years sitting on people’s wheels and waiting until the final moment to attack and take all the glory, it’s kinda cool to be on the front all day and might be good for my life. I was excited.”

Fit for the Tour
Having spent the past three and a half years in retirement, Armstrong was generally happy with his condition in the race, and seemed to suggest that he is aiming for an eighth Tour de France win in July.

“To win the Tour you need to be as strong as possible and as light as possible and so I don’t necessarily need to get that much stronger but I need to get lighter,” Armstrong said.

“Three and a half years of not watching every gram of food you put in your body and the amount of wine you consume takes its toll, so you’ve got to get back in to it.”

“Also, spending time in the gym, the body weight is coming down naturally from the TDU to here the Giro [d’Italia] will be very beneficial for that. Come July hopefully I’ll be 74 kilos like before, but all in all, they’re little things we have to work on. It’s not complicated.”

“The goal is to be competitive, if I can be top ten or top five – if I’m going great, top three – absolutely, that would be perfect. Having never done the Giro and the Tour it’s a difficult thing to do and something I’ve never experienced. But we’ll go in to the Giro as fit as we can possibly be, but you don’t want to kill yourself.”


2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA: LINKS

STAGE REPORTS
Stage eight: Leipheimer wins 2009 Tour of California
Stage seven: Nocentini wins in Pasedena
Stage six: Leipheimer wins time trial to cement Tour of California lead
Stage five: Two in a row for Cavendish
Stage four: Cavendish battles over hills to wins stage
Stage three: Hushovd sprints home
Stage two: Leipheimer takes the lead
Stage one: Mancebo’s stage one win raises Puerto demons
Prologue: Cancellara Express derails the Armstrong show

NEWS & FEATURES
Mancebo crashes out of KOM lead
Comment: What’s in a victory salute?
Cavendish rises to second in list of all-time British pro winners
Armstrong’s time trial bike handed in to police
Boonen set to ride Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne after Tour of California
Cancellara abandons Tour of California
Armstrong’s bike stolen in California
Cavendish poised to take leaders jersey
Tour of California blog
Armstrong and Astana train for Tour of California
Mark Cavendish: Rider Profile
Lance Armstrong: Rider Profile

PHOTOS
Stage eight photo gallery
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Prologue photo gallery
Cycling Weekly photo gallery

2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA PREVIEW
2009 Tour of California race preview
Start list: all the riders
Team list: all the squads

2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA STAGES
Saturday, February 14 Prologue details
Sunday, February 15 Stage one details
Monday, February 16 Stage two details
Tuesday, February 17 Stage three details
Wednesday, February 18 Stage four details
Thursday February 19 Stage five details
Friday, February 20 Stage six details
Saturday, February 21 Stage seven details
Sunday, February 22 Stage eight details

EXTERNAL LINKS
Tour of California official website