Armstrong welcomes 'open' 2010 yellow jersey battle

PARIS: Seven-times champion Lance Armstrong admitted next year's Tour de France could offer victory opportunities to a bigger field of rivals after the organisers' unveiled the 2010 route on Wednesday.

Beginning in Rotterdam on July 3 and ending in Paris July 25, the 97th edition of the world's toughest bike race will cover an approximate total distance of 3,590 kilometres.

However in keeping with the organisers' annual bid to innovate, there will be few mountain top finishes, only one individual time trial and no team time trial.

Spaniard Alberto Contador, who races for Astana, triumphed for the second time in his career in this year's edition in which Armstrong finished third, behind Luxembourg's Andy Schleck.

Armstrong and Contador both raced for Astana in 2009 however their cohabitation was far from comfortable. The American has since moved on and will spearhead the Radio Shack team's yellow jersey bid in 2010.

In total there are six full mountain stages in 2010, meaning there will be, at least on paper, plenty of opportunities for attacks.

But with only three summit finishes -- and the most difficult sections of climbing in the Pyrenees -- Armstrong hinted that he would be in with a good chance of controlling the threat of Contador.

"I think it will be much more open than this year. The TTT (team time trial) eliminated people (in 2009), and we won't have that again," said Armstrong.

"This year we ended up with three or four guys who could have won the Tour, next year we'll be going into the tough sections with 10 guys."

Armstrong, who ended his three and a half year retirement last year to come back and compete for the first time since 2005, said he would have to study all the climbs "in detail" before making any pre-race plans.

But he hinted that the inclusion of downhill finishes on some of the climbing stages would give him, and others, opportunities to make up time on some of the pure climbers, such as Contador.

"There's more downhill finishes, and also more long sections after the climbs. Those stages are almost non-events," added the American.