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New York City Cycling Championship - NE

USA, August 4, 2002

LA NYC Press Conference

New York, New York, Sunday August 4, 2002

By Tim Maloney European editor in New York
Ready to roll
Photo: © CN
Click for larger image

Lance Armstrong made a flying visit to New York for the New York City Cycling Championship, a 100 km criterium around the streets of Lower Manhattan. Although Armstrong was not expected to win the race, he was prominent in the peloton, doing a fair amount of work to help bring back the breakaway of seven, that stayed away for most of the race. Afterwards, he gave a brief press conference before flying back to Spain to prepare for the Clasica San Sebastian next weekend.

Q: What do you think about the race's tie-in with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center?

LA: I'm a cancer survivor and that's my greatest passion in life. Even greater than cycling...so it's a natural fit.

As Armstrong attempted to answer the next question, the thousands of spectators surrounding the café where the press conference began to cheer spontaneously for the four time TDF winner. Above the heads of the crowds, some American super-tifosi brandished their inflatable whale adorned with US Postal Service logo stickers...

"It's Shamu..." a laughing and obviously pleased Armstrong told the assembled media. "Shamu was at the Tourdefrance every day. He told me Shamu was going to be here..."

Q: Why did you want to race in the NYC Cycling Championships?

LA: We decided (to come to New York) a long time ago...we made the plans to come months ago, no matter what. I've never raced in New York; I've ridden in Central Park several times...and to me, it seemed like there were a lot of people (today). Very loud, very enthusiastic...it was special for many reasons. It's always great to race in America and in light of what happened just a few blocks from here (World Trade Center terrorist attack), you can't forget that.

When the policewoman sang the national anthem that way, it was a really special feeling. It's good to be....as a Texan, it's always an interesting relationship between Texans and New Yorkers. And you never know where you sit with them...but after 9/11, that's why I wanted to come up here and do something...to contribute somehow, someway.

This city has been great to me and always supported (me) in the Tour De France. I've always come (to New York) after the Tour but I've never come here to race. I came here (last year) on or around September 20th. At the time, I noticed a big change (in New York.) Walking around, driving around there was no honking, no horns...relatively no hostility for New York City. Spent some time down at Ground Zero, spent some time with Mayor Giuliani, flew over Ground Zero. That was a big shock for me...I was with some people from New York at the end of the Tour De France and they said that they don't feel the same still. What happened here will be remembered forever...some people may never be the same.

Q: What do you think about racing in a TDF-style race in the USA?

LA: It's important to remember that next year, 2003 is the 100th anniversary of the Tourdefrance. It takes a long time (to become established) and it's an old sport in Europe. People talk about the Tour of Italy or the Tour of Spain; those are old events...the classics in the springtime are 80, 90 years old...they're old, old historical, classic races. You can't just say we're going to have a Tour of America and make it work. It doesn't work like that...it's a cyclical sport in America. We have events that come along and riders that come and go. So I'm afraid that the (European) classics will always be overseas.

Q: What did you think of the road surface on the course?

LA: Ha! Are you kidding? There were...I've never seen potholes like that! (laughter from media) They were...I don't know...as wide as a car and as deep as a swimming pool. Do they drive around those things? It was impressive...but. No, the surface was not bad, but it's so difficult to compare. We did more turns this afternoon than we do in the entire Tourdefrance. It's just very different....turnturnturn, sprint out of the corners, whereas the Tour is more..three weeks, long straight roads, over the mountains. It's just a very different style of racing...

Q: What are your goals for the rest of the 2002 season?

LA: Humph...I don't want to sound like a loser, but my goals have been achieved...I mean, I won three big races this year and finally won four in the Tour and I'll do a couple more World Cups the rest of the season and the final race in San Francisco in September. And if I don't win another race, or if I don't even finish another race, I'll still be satisfied with the year. For us (USPS), the Tour is everything and for me, specifically, the Tour is everything so if we can win, the season's a success.

Q: What did you think of the criticism in the Wall Street Journal that you only do well in the Tour De France?

LA: You know, big time sports are soooo...uhh...focused on the big events now; the grand slams, the majors...(interrupted by more spontaneous cheering by the crowds outside, Armstrong makes hand motions to calm them, then exclaims 'I have to talk!')...but anyway, I didn't see the article. I'll look for it. Anyway, if you have something that's your focus, something like the Tour De France, or the Masters or the US Open or Wimbledon, the smaller events...they're not irrelevant, but you have to go for the biggies. And if you focused on all the small ones and went to the big one and lost? What articles would they write then?

Q: What about your preparation for the 2003 Tour De France?

LA: It's a constant work in progress...I wouldn't say that this was specific preparation for July 2003. Do I want another (victory in) the Tour? Well, I don't want to be second.