Tour de France News Extra for July 19, 2004
Edited by John Stevenson
Armstrong still on the retirement fence
Lance Armstrong rides in stage
Photo: © Roberto Bettini
Will he or won't he? When it comes to his retirement, Lance Armstrong
is still keeping everyone guessing, including the many riders who'd like
a clear shot at a future Tour.
"I first need to finish this Tour before thinking about it," Armstrong
told French radio station Europe 1. "Not so long ago, I was convinced
I would end my career after a sixth victory but now it is tough for me
to think I might soon retire," he continued. "It's difficult for me to
think I could not be in a team which is going to last three more seasons
with a new sponsor."
No doubt that new sponsor - Discovery Channel, which takes over from
US Postal on the team's livery next year - would be delighted to have
a six-time Tour winner heading its roster. But Armstrong has to win this
Tour first, and he says it's not as easy as it might look.
"I must say that in the Tour, experience is essential," he said. "I know
that some people think I don't suffer but of course I do. This year less
than in 2003 but more than in 2001."
Armstrong also addressed the doping allegations that constantly surround
cycling in general and himself in particular.
"To some extent I understand their point," he said. "The guy nearly died
from cancer and it's impossible that he could win the toughest race in
the world. Yet I'm telling you there is no secret. The sport changed a
lot after 1998 and the Festina scandal. It's a good thing that the pressure
on cycling has led to new rules and more controls.
"But it's a bad thing that it should attract journalists only looking
for sensational headlines. They say I'm the biggest cheater and nobody
likes to be treated this way. But I know better and in 10 or 15 years,
nobody will remember what was written in that newspaper or in that book
that just came out. Everybody will remember that I won five or six Tours
de France. I'm convinced everybody will know then that I was clean."
Hinault joins LeMond/Armstrong fray
The last Frenchman to win five Tours de France, Bernard Hinault, is not
impressed with Greg LeMond's insinuations that Lance Armstrong has achieved
his five Tour victories with a little help. Speaking to Newsweek
before the race hit the Pyrenees, Hinault said of LeMond's comments, "This
is something that keeps coming back, and I think that some of it may be
linked to LeMond's jealousy of Armstrong. The fact is that Armstrong has
never tested positive. And as long as you don't have evidence I don't
see how you can accuse him."
Despite their rivalry while both were racing for La Vie Claire in 1986
and Hinault apparently attacked LeMond even though the team's goal was
to have LeMond win the Tour that year, Hinault was sanguine about LeMond's
comment that Armstrong's six victories on the Tour wouldn't be worth Hinault's
"You cannot compare what's not comparable," said Hinault. "If Eddy Merckx
had competed only in the Tour de France, he would have won it 15 times.
The problem with cyclists these days is that they do what they're told
to do because the media pressure and the expectations are so huge that
the only thing that matters is winning. If you don't wear yourself out
by running other races during the year and you concentrate on competing
only two months a year, then you have a big advantage over everybody else.
And that's what Armstrong does."
Since retiring in 1986, Hinault has owned and run a farm in his native
Brittany, but returns to the Tour de France every year as a PR man for
the race. What did he think explained the importance of the Tour? "It's
a combination of things," said Hinault. "You get all the best champions,
it's the summer, people are on holidays and all the media are there. If
you have media, you have sponsors, and if you have sponsors, you have
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)