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Le Tour 2001

89th Tour de France - Grand Tour

France, July 6-28, 2002

Interview with Richard Virenque

The housewives' and mountains favourite

Preface and excerpt by Anthony Tan, interview by Jacques Spyros

Click for larger image
Just happy to be back
Photo: © CN/Tim Maloney

The housewives' and mountains favourite, Richard Virenque, came back with a vengeance last year, winning Paris-Tours after an impressive 244km two-up breakaway with Monsieur "I'll attack whenever I can" Jacky Durand, then instigating the decisive split at the World Championships in Lisbon.

Virenque's peformances in the latter half of the 2001 season signalled a comeback, not in the sense that he wanted to become a classics rider, but more veangeance on all those who doubted his return. However his path of retribution is not complete: the Frenchman still wants to show who's boss when the road veers skywards in two weeks time.

Stronger than before?

This happens to be the title of Virenque's new book that he was promoting on French television the other day. And while it's great to see Richard so motivated, back to his old "love me or hate me" self, there still lies an air of suspicion surrounding Monsieur Mountain Goat.

Thierry Ardisson, presenter of the French chat show, "Tout le monde en parle" (The world is talking) was getting on famously with Virenque, and decided to throw in a bit of a doozy to see how he handles himself. Ardisson's question was: "If you were sure of winning the Tour by being doped, but knew you would not get caught, would you do it?"

Virenque replied: "Win the Tour doped, but without getting caught? - Yes."


Virenque asked for his reply to be edited out, however the shamefulness and naivety on behalf of the Frenchman was too good to hide, and not surprisingly, his remarks caused a bit of stir to say the least.

His attempt to back-pedal on his recorded comments didn't do much good either: "I said that yes, I had been doped in 1998, but after everything that has happened since, no - I wouldn’t do it."

It appears Richard just can't help always being the centre of attention, and as the show's name suggests, the world is talking.

Cyclingnews: It's your big comeback to the Tour after a year. First of all, how do you feel?

Richard Virenque: I'm in good condition - I'm really looking forward to starting this Tour de France with huge hopes of success.

CN: Are you feeling there's too much pressure on you before the start in Luxembourg?

RV: No, not at all. I've always been under pressure when it comes to the Tour. And it was my own pressure. So it really won't change anything.

CN: I can imagine you've been thinking about this Tour for quite some time?

RV: Actually I've really started focusing on the Tour only two months ago.

CN: What are your objectives?

Click for larger image
Loved the Joux-Plane
Photo: © AFP

RV: A podium finish will be tough to get because the race course includes quite a few time-trial stages. Logically that should keep me behind the others in the overall. So I'm basically going to concentrate on winning a stage and winning the polka dot jersey.

CN: Has there been some specific work done before this Tour?

RV: Every year I try to work on time-trials. This year I've done the same again, working with Jeannie Longo's husband. In addition, the Domo team arranged a great program all the way to the start of this Tour. I'll have exactly 41 days of racing in the legs and that will allow me to be perfectly fresh for the last week.

CN: Your thoughts on the course... Not exactly a Richard Virenque course?

RV: It could have been if the time-trial stages had been cut down a little. There's one in Brittany of about 60kms and than another one on the last Saturday of a similar distance - those are huge distances for me.

CN: What about the mountains?

RV: Well the advantage in the mountains is that the Alps and the Pyrenees stages are pretty close to each other. That's a big advantage for me.

Click for larger image
242km break. Très impressionnant.
Photo: © AFP

CN: Lance Armstrong is obviously the favourite?

RV: Yes he's the huge favourite. Already he's good in the mountains but in the time-trial stages he dominates over everyone. On the French side, Christophe Moreau is capable of doing something interesting.

CN: What will go through your mind when you're be on your bike on Saturday, ready to take off for the prologue?

RV: A huge happiness of just being there. And everything that comes now is bonus.


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