ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Lance Armstrong departed Australia confident that the two key areas of his comeback are on track.
The seven-time Tour de France winner finished 29th overall in the Tour Down Under, 49 seconds behind winner Allan Davis of Australia, but was satisfied with his ability to keep up with top riders after 3½ years out of professional cycling.
Armstrong says that his fitness is more advanced at this stage of the season than at any time in his career, and that after his time away he still has the legs to match younger riders. And his quest for an eighth win in the Tour de France in July this year, the competitive goal of his comeback, is "right on line."
"I wouldn't say (the race has) given me too much confidence," the 37-year-old said.
"It's given me a reassurance that I can still race because I've got to say, man, you never know. You're out 3½ years, you don't know how the body deteriorates or gets older.
"It reassures me that I can work hard and do the right work and I think I can still race at the highest level."
Armstrong believes he also advanced the other focus of his return to cycling, expanding global awareness of cancer through his Lance Armstrong Foundation.
He said in his blog on the Twitter social networking Web site that South Australia state announced it will name a cancer research clinic set to open in 2010 in his honor. By that measure, Armstrong says, his visit to Australia has been successful.
"I think we've started something really great here with the cancer initiative and with having the (research) center named after the foundation," he said. "We're going to be back here to continue that relationship long into the future."
Armstrong came across as relaxed and content in diverse blog entries he posted on his Twitter page during his two weeks in Australia.
On the inauguration of President Barack Obama as the 44th president, he wrote: "Up early watching the inauguration events. Difficult yet exciting times."
As a survivor of testicular cancer, he felt for others: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Senators Kennedy and Byrd."
(Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, ill with a brain tumor, was hospitalized after suffering a seizure at a post-inauguration luncheon. Byrd left the luncheon after Kennedy was stricken, but aides said health wasn't an issue.)
Armstrong gave his opinion on music — "listening to Ray LaMontagne" — and expressed frustration at having read that European Union member states are failing to meet cancer screening targets.
He declared admiration for a fellow athlete, a man at the top of his sport: "Watching Federer vs. Safin at the Aussie Open (tennis). Federer's unreal. Freakishly good."
He found time for family: "Just talked to my son Luke. He says, 'Hey, I hope you win today.' No pressure!! Jeez." And friends: "Got together with (former teammate George Hincapie) and Michael Rogers last night. We had some good laughs."
He took surprises in stride: "Knock on the door just now — anti-doping control."
And his final entry before leaving.
"On our way to the airport in Adelaide, headed home to Austin," Armstrong wrote. "Going to miss this place. Amazing people. Thanks Adelaide and South Australia."
Race organizers are hoping that's a sign he'll return next year. More than 750,000 people watched Armstrong race over the course of the six-day tour, including 144,000 in Adelaide on Sunday, both race records.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.