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Armstrong's Spring campaign over; American sets his sights on quest for 4th consecutive Tour De France title
As Europe prepared for their Labor Day on the eve of May 1, Cyclingnews' European Editor Tim Maloney spoke to Lance Armstrong at his home in Girona, Spain. As son Luke happily played with George Hincapie's scooter helmet before bedtime, the three time Tour De France champion took time to update us on his spring classics campaign, Tour De France preparation and other stuff.
Cyclingnews: Lance, you had your USPS guys working hard on Sunday at Amstel Gold.
Lance Armstrong: It's an easier race to work with all the twists and turns...
CN: What happened when Boogerd attacked?
LA: When he went, it was the first and only attack of the day. (Boogerd) went over the top of a climb (Eyserbosweg (900m. climb / 11.5% avg. grade), and they were going really fast at the beginning of the break. It seemed like with those guys (Fassa Bortolo riders Bartoli and Ivanov) being in one team, you're almost always going to lose.
CN: How about as you got closer to the finish?
LA: I think (FB) started to suffer - and you probably couldn't tell on TV but Boogerd attacked from the front on that really steep climb they put in - the Keutenberg? And that was the hardest move of the day. But I was feeling better and better and when I attacked on the last climb (Sint-Antoniusbank), it just wasn't hard enough or I wasn't good enough. I thought the old parcours was harder with the Pietersberg in the final - it was steeper.
CN: Any disappointment from Amstel Gold?
LA: None at all - I have to look at the big picture and it's not the end of the world for me. I know my condition is on track and (Amstel Gold) is a reassurance that things are on track. Last year I was totally empty at the end, but I was happy how I felt this year after 250km. It's a nervous, twisty, turning race; really exhausting.
CN: When we last spoke before Milano-San Remo, we asked you about changing your template, about a focus on the classics - how has that worked so far?
LA: It's hard to say at this point - seems like it went well, but we'll know in July (at the TDF). It doesn't seem like I've lacked the stage racing; I've finished all the World Cup races I started this year - intense 6 to 7 hour efforts and that counts for something. Honestly, I'm feeling really antsy to do some stage races now.
CN: So what will be your program leading up to the Tour De France this year? When will you start your training camps?
LA: We'll wait and see what happens with the mountain passes; they are all closed now and we'll react fast when they re-open. We're not too far away from the Pyrenees here (Girona, Spain) - the good news is there's not too much snow this year, But the bad news is they only plow the roads when they feel like it so we may not get up there until mid June...
CN: Which races are on your pre-Tour program?
LA: The Midi-Libre (stage race in south-central France/May 22-26) and the Dauphine (Libere/June 9-16).
CN: Will this be the first time you've done the Midi-Libre?
LA: Yeah, l don't know much about it - up and down. (Interviewed in the Midi-Libre newspaper in mid-April, 2 time TDF winner and France TV cycling commentator Bernard Thevenet commented that 'If Armstrong wants to make the race (this year), and I don't see why not, there's a risk that the whole thing will blow up.')
CN: And the Dauphine has your old friend Col de Joux Plane - June 15's Stage 6 of the Criterium de Dauphiné Libéré from Albertville to Morzine-Avoriaz is 146km of tough Alpine climbing; 3 cat.1 climbs (Col des Saises, Col des Aravis, Col de la Colombiere) and 1 hors categorie Col de Joux Plane before the twisting descent to the finish in Morzine-Avoriaz).
LA: That bastard - (laughs) I won't make the same mistake twice: I'll make sure I eat an extra PowerBar before Joux Plane! But it looks like a good race.
CN: The Giro d'Italia is coming up in a week or so; your ex-team-mate Tyler Hamilton is one of the dark horse contenders.
LA: I haven't seen him much - at Liege was the last time. He lives in the same building as us in Girona, but I think he's been getting ready to do the Giro with his new team. I'm looking forward to watching it on TV.
CN: Any Giro predictions?
LA: I think it's gonna' be similar guys as last year; Casagrande, Simoni, Frigo, Garzelli - I haven't seen Simoni yet; he was good in Trentino but I didn't see his face on TV to see how much he was suffering - Casagrande - three weeks is tough for him.
CN: Have you been following Jan Ullrich's status?
LA: I haven't really heard anything; I don't know more than what I read on-line or in the papers. One could say that this is a bluff but I doubt it - no question about it, we need a fit Jan Ullrich in the Tour De France this year; I do, you do, we all do - especially if he's fit and ready to win.
It's not like I'm sitting here crossing my fingers that Ullrich won't be there - not at all. It's very important to have some good competition, to have a strong team to race against.
CN: Without a competitive Jan Ullrich to challenge, the Tour De France could be boring this year...?
LA: Oh, don't worry - someone will be there (if Ullrich isn't).
CN: After the Tour, I hear that you'll be racing in New York City?
LA: Yes, I'll come in just for the race on August 4th (New York City Cycling Championship, Presented By BMC Software at Manhattan's South Street Seaport). It should be great; I've always gotten a great reception in New York.
CN: When you were interviewed by Italian TV in late March before Milano-San Remo, you had a lot to say about the controversial Dr. Michele Ferrari.
CN: As I've always said, if this case was in the USA, there's only one tenth of one percent that it would have ever come to trial. Dr. Ferrari is taking a fall because he's seen as the devil in the eyes of the media. And I suppose it's frustrating for Dr. Ferrari; he's got one of the worlds leading haemotologists testifying on his behalf, saying that nothing can be proved from these test results that the prosecution is offering as evidence. It must be incredibly frustrating (for Ferrari) that the police and the politicians and the media is building this whole thing up.
Now there can be a raid, and they can take multivitamins, or aspirin and go on camera for an interview and say 'we've found some unknown substances, it could be doping' and once they do the analysis and the stuff is multivitamins or aspirin, that never comes out. It's too late. The riders reputation is ruined - from that point on the rider is screwed.
But that's the climate we live in today. I wouldn't go to a race with anything these days; look at our (USPS) situation in France! The whole thing is comical!
CN: Speaking of France and comical in the same sentence, any update on your tax situation since the last time we spoke?
LA: It's still going along; they (French tax authorities) were surprised that we sold our house in Nice - so now there is nothing to confiscate!
At that point, Luke Armstrong's bedtime was nigh, so Lance excused himself from our interview to rescue George's helmet and tuck his energetic almost-three year old in for the night. After a tough 2002 spring campaign, Lance Armstrong sounds fresh and motivated to tackle the task of his quest for a fourth consecutive Tour De France win.
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