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Armstrong heads Astana Tour de France team

  • Story Highlights
  • Lance Armstrong is named in a strong Astana squad for the Tour de France
  • Armstrong will be bidding for an eighth victory in cycling's most famous race
  • 2007 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador will start as the race favorite
  • Belgian rider Tom Boonen not welcome on the Tour after positive for cocaine
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(CNN) -- Lance Armstrong and 2007 champion Alberto Contador will head a strong Astana team for next month's Tour de France.

Armstrong (left)  will be backed by a strong Astana squad in Tour de France.

Armstrong (left) will be backed by a strong Astana squad in Tour de France.

Armstrong is bidding for an unprecedented eighth victory in cycling's most prestigious race while his teammate Contador will start as favorite for the yellow jersey.

The Kazakh-backed squad will have strong support riders with Andreas Kloeden, Levi Leipheimer, Yaroslav Popovych and Haimar Zulbedia also named in the tea,

Kloeden and Leipheimer have both been podium finishers in the Tour de France while the team is packed full of good performers for the key mountain stages.

The remaining three riders to make up the squad of nine will be picked from Jani Brajkovic, Chris Horner, Benjamin Noval, Dmitriy Muravyev, Sergio Paulinho, Gregory Rast and Tomas Vaitkus.

"The complete 2009 Tour roster will be chosen based on the strongest team from both a sportive and team-spirit criteria," Astana's team chief Johan Bruyneel told Press Association Sport.

Astana have also settled doubts over outstanding debts run up by the team which left their participation in the Tour in doubt with the Kazakh government putting up guarantees that riders would be paid.

The team is returning to the Tour after a two-year absence, having been barred from the 2008 because of doping misdemeanors by former squad members.

It left Contador to win the Giro d'Italia and Tour of Spain and he will be bidding for a second Tour triumph when racing gets underway in Monaco on July 4.

Armstrong returned to the peloton earlier this year after a three-year absence and finished 12th in the Giro d'Italia, his preparation hampered by breaking his collarbone at a minor stage race in Spain in March.

In other Tour de France news, organizers have barred former world champion Tom Boonen from competing in this year's race.

The Belgian, who won Parix-Roubaix for the third time this year, tested positive for cocaine in April. His Quick Step team said on Friday that they would consider legal action to challenge the decision.

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