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Giro d'Italia can shine without Lance Armstrong - federation

MILAN (Reuters) - It is too early to predict the financial implications if Lance Armstrong is forced to pull out of the Giro d’Italia, Italy’s cycling federation president said on Tuesday.

Lance Armstrong of the U.S. is taken out from an ambulance as he arrives at Hospital Clinico in Valladolid, central Spain March 23, 2009. It is too early to predict the financial implications if Armstrong is forced to pull out of the Giro d'Italia, Italy's cycling federation president said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Rafa Gomez-Ciclismo a Fondo

The seven-times Tour de France champion broke his right collarbone in a crash in Spain’s Vuelta Castilla y Leon on Monday.

The American, who was due to race in the Giro for the first time as part of his cycling comeback, has said he will decide in the next week whether he can be fit the world’s second biggest stage race in May. He is also due to compete in July’s Tour.

“It’s difficult to evaluate,” Italy’s cycling chief Renato Di Rocco told Reuters when asked about the financial implications if Armstrong pulled out.

“But the start is in Venice, there’s a special finish in Rome and many events lined up. Obviously if he is there it is an added bonus, but the Giro lives on.”

The Giro begins with a time trial in Venice on May 9, the first time the race has begun in the famous city in 12 years.

Added interest was expected given the choice of starting venue, while the May 31 climax in Rome, instead of the traditional finish in Milan, may also help.

The Giro will also be celebrating its 100th anniversary but if Armstrong is not fit to race, the impact will still be felt.

The 37-year-old cancer survivor, who retired in 2005 only to return this year to boost his charity campaign, finished 125th in Saturday’s Milan-San Remo but his presence still attracted hundreds of journalists to the race.

“Definitely we would miss a great champion. You saw with the Milan San Remo how many journalists were accredited. But I must say that the Giro is bigger than any rider. It is the 100 year anniversary after all,” Di Rocco added.

One bonus for Italy would be that home cyclists such as Ivan Basso and Danilo Di Luca would have one less dangerman to worry about if Armstrong pulled out.

“I don’t want to go down the route of saying it will offer opportunities. We’ve proved in the world championships how strong we are,” Di Rocco said.

Even if Armstrong recovers in time and decides to compete in the Giro, his partner is due to give birth in early June and he has said he may consider quitting the race if the baby is born early.