Armstrong focusing on time trial in Tour of Murcia 

Lance Armstrong is looking to improve his time trial performance in the Tour of Murcia as part of his Tour de France preparations.

Armstrong expects the five-day race along the southeastern Mediterranean coast, starting Wednesday, will boost his chances of winning an eighth Tour de France.

"Considering we haven't raced since January, it's important. It's definitely important," the Team RadioShack rider said.

On Tuesday, team boss Johan Bruyneel said he believed the 38-year-old Armstrong was looking better than when he returned in 2009 after a 3½-year retirement.

But the Texan isn't so sure his physical condition has improved.

"Maybe it's similar. It's a little different too, because last year we had the benefit of a hard Tour of California, which this year we didn't have," said Armstrong, who hasn't raced since January's Tour Down Under in Australia.

Armstrong said he has been focusing on getting his body position right for Saturday's 13.7-mile time trial.

"I've tried to work on the positioning and on the training aspects," he said. "Last year, I didn't train very much on the time trial bike, which was my mistake. (It) requires a lot of specific training, which I didn't do.

"We tweaked the position a little bit. We also worked on the bike, which has continued to evolve and the helmet has evolved."

Armstrong says he is more relaxed and feels less pressure as cycling is no longer his top priority. He wouldn't predict how he'd fare in the time trial, saying "the most important thing is to ride as hard as I can and run a smart race, a time trial that's well tempoed."

RadioSchack is one of 16 teams taking part in the five-day race, which includes other Tour hopefuls like Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky and Denis Menchov of Rabobank.

There are no Italian teams involved, but race director Francisco Guzman denied reports that organizers had banned them because of ongoing problems with Alejandro Valverde. He cannot compete in Italy because of an ongoing doping case.

"I made a mistake in the press conference when I said that we preferred not to have Italian teams of a low level because of everything that has happened with Valverde," Guzman said. "But they were never denied, they just could not make it due to scheduling conflicts."

The opening leg Wednesday was an 103-mile ride around the coastal town of San Pedro del Pinatar.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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