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Lance to stage comeback in Tour of the Gila

Armstrong to compete in first race since collarbone surgery

Lance Armstrong, no stranger to comebacks, will compete in his first race since collarbone surgery in the Tour of the Gila, New Mexico.

His participation had looked uncertain yesterday thanks to an International Cycling Union (UCI) rule that bars professional teams from taking part in national-level competitions. But the decision was overturned due to a loophole which allows individuals to take part in such races and meant Armstrong’s team Astana was able to enter him and teammates Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner.

The 37-year-old American, who broke his collarbone in four places during the first stage of Spain's Vuelta Castilla y Leon last month, will hone his form for the Giro d’Italia, which begins on May 9.

According to AFP, it had been reported earlier yesterday that race organisers were furious with the UCI over the possible absence of Armstrong, whose presence will help promote the race significantly.

But when contacted by AFP, the UCI said it was them who informed USA Cycling of a loophole in their own rules that effectively paved the way for the Astana trio to compete.

Asked whether the recent outbreak of swine flu, which began in Mexico, would be a factor for the team, Astana team spokesman Philippe Maertens told AFP: "I don't think it's an issue the team has thought about.

"But at this point I don't think we're too concerned about it."

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