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Armstrong content with life away from the saddle

Written by: Staff
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WANZE, Belgium, May 9 (Reuters) Seven times Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong has admitted he does not miss the pain and pressure of being a professional rider when he visited the Giro d'Italia in Belgium today.

''I miss the training more than anything but not the racing. I've no regrets,'' Armstrong, who retired from cycling last July, told reporters.

''To be honest, I haven't been following cycling much. I care about how the Discovery Channel team are doing but that's about it.

''Being a father takes up most of my time and outside of that, the issues in and around cancer are the most important thing I work on daily.

''I do other business stuff on the side and I'm also trying to train for the New York marathon but that's hard because it's a whole different set of muscles and so I'm always tired and sore.'' The 34-year-old Texan was diagnosed with cancer in 1996 but was able to overcome the disease to win the first of his seven consecutive Tour de France's three years later.

Armstrong revealed he would ride to the famous L'Alpe d'Huez climb in the next few days to celebrate a friend's 50th birthday.

He won stages at the central French Alps climb in the 2001 and 2004 editions of the Tour de France.

FRENCH RETURN Last August, French sports newspaper L'Equipe accused Armstrong of using illegal drugs to win the Tour de France but he confirmed he would be back at the race as a visitor in July.

''I'm going to go to the final week of the Tour de France. I like France and I like the people,'' he said.

''I don't want to have a coffee with (race director) Jean Marie Leblanc or anyone from L'Equipe, but they're a small part of the French population.'' Armstrong tipped his former team mate Paolo Savoldelli to win the Giro d'Italia and feels the Italian also has the right credentials to win the Tour de France.

''I think Savoldelli could win, he's riding well,'' Armstrong said.

''His performance in the time trial was good and surprised everybody. He's skinny but it's a very hard Giro.'' ''I originally picked (German Jan) Ullrich to win the Tour de France but he seems to be behind again.

''If he's only five kilogrammes overweight that's pretty good for him but I don't understand him, he's so much to gain.

''I don't know if he loves the bike or not but he could be the biggest sporting star in Germany.'' Armstrong said he would stay in Europe for the next few days and follow his Discovery Channel team mates in Thursday's 38-km team time-trial stage between Piacenza and Cremona.

REUTERS PG PM1700

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