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Armstrong says not in top shape for California race.

SACRAMENTO: Lance Armstrong may be among the favorites for the Tour de France, but the seven-times race winner is frustrated by his lack of fitness with the start of cycling s biggest race about six weeks away.

"Personally, I ve struggled to find the condition I d like," Armstrong said on Friday, two days prior to the start of the May 16-23 Tour of California.

"There were moments when I thought it was getting back and then I had physical or other health issues that came along and complicated things."

The 38-year-old Texan made his North American return to cycling in 2009 at the Tour of California after 3-1/2 years in retirement and placed seventh overall while riding in a support role for team mate and compatriot Levi Leipheimer.

Leipheimer, third overall in the 2007 Tour de France, will seek his fourth straight Tour of California title when the eight-stage event begins Sunday with a 167.7-km road stage from Nevada City to Sacramento.

"I d like to think I m headed in the right direction now," said Armstrong, who finished third in the Tour de France last year to former teammate Alberto Contador of Spain. "But that s why we re here. It s a good event to test yourself."

Armstrong altered his early racing schedule several times this season. He missed some events due to illness and opted out of other races to spend more time with his four children and pregnant girlfriend.

"I m close to 39 and I m racing guys in their mid-20s," said Armstrong. "I truly believe the current generation of riders is better than the guys I raced against when I was 30.

[c] Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2009

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Date:May 16, 2010
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