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Tour de France News for June 19, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

Virenque's modest ambitions

Richard Virenque (Quick.Step-Davitamon), six times a winner of the king of the mountains competition in the Tour de France, will aim for an unprecedented seventh polka dot jersey this July, even if his ambitions remain modest. Virenque, 34, has made the Tour de France his focus for the year since the season began, but admits to a certain pessimism concerning his own potential and hinting that this Tour could be his last.

"Most of all I want to enjoy myself at the Tour," Virenque said in a l'Equipe interview. "To win a stage would be great, but that depends on a lot of things."

As for his eventual decision to retire, not surprisingly Virenque says the Tour will be the key factor. Since turning professional with the RMO team in 1991, Virenque has hit the highs and lows of his career at the Tour, including several stage wins, stints in the yellow jersey, and his six polka dot jerseys along the way, while also being implicated in the Festina affair of 1998 which saw the expulsion of his entire team from the Tour.

"Everything depends on the Tour de France," Virenque explained. "I realise that I'm at the end of my career, that it's mostly behind me. After fourteen years as a pro, I don't really have any more perspective.

"I don't want to make any ultimatums to Quick.Step," he added, "since my career could finish with another team if I felt like I still had the energy and the desire to carry on. No matter what happens, I want to finish in a good environment, whether it's Quick.Step or elsewhere."

Virenque found disagreement with his team manager Patrick Lefevere this year, preferring to ride the Four Days of Dunkirk but being sent to the Giro del Trentino instead. The Frenchman was frustrated by the mid-spring episode, but ultimately feels that he will meet his team's expectation that he arrive at the Tour in top condition.

"Right now I'm training in the mountains, which is a real sacrifice but the goal is to be able to do something special at the Tour. If the results don't come, I don't see what the point would be."

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