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Lance Armstrong announced early this week that this would be the final Tour of his career. For most riders that usually means one more Tour after the announcement, but I think Lance really does want this Tour to be his last.


It seems like this year, Lance has been a bit more distracted with off-the-bike activities. To be fair, most of these activities have centered around his global awareness of cancer work, but it still means time away from training and focusing on the task at hand.


Up until the recent Tour of Switzerland, I would have been concerned that Lance was not going to be at full speed coming into the Tour. However, Lance finished second overall in Switzerland which is a good sign for a season plagued by illness and crashes.


Lance's second place in Switzerland was a combination of a good day of climbing in the race's critical mountain stage and a good day time trialing on the final stage. It is consistency which wins the Tour de France and Lance was consistent enough to place second at the Tour de Suisse.


But, there is a bit of a concern on the fitness side for Lance.  He finished out of the top 10 in the final time trial. There are two areas of concern here.  First, he was beaten in the overall by Frank Schleck. Frank outclimbed Lance and he was good enough in the final time trial to hold onto first place.  That means that the gap between Lance and Frank is closing in the time trials.  If the gap stays the same or continues to close, Lance may not have the same advantage over the Luxemborg rider which was critical for putting Lance on the podium last year.


Secondly, Lance is used to winning time trials or at least finishing top three. The fact that he finished 11th means that there is definitely more work to be done before he is ready to throw down at the Tour where the level of competition is much greater.


So, Lance's Tour de Suisse result was encouraging, but is he really ready to climb back onto the podium at this year's Tour? It will be his last opportunity to do so.  That would be a fitting ending to a great Tour de France career.


Bruce Hildenbrand

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