ROTTERDAM (Reuters) - Heading into his final Tour de France, Lance Armstrong knows that he will have no time to look around and enjoy his time in the race as nothing can deter him from his ultimate goal: an unprecedented eighth Tour de France win.
Ahead of the teams’ presentation near Rotterdam’s Eramus bridge on Thursday, Armstrong sat down with a few media representatives, including Reuters, to talk about the three-week race which starts on Saturday:
Question: When did you make the decision it would be your last Tour de France?
Answer: A while ago. It’s just a family decision. That came from pressure from my kids: ‘When are you going to stop doing this?’ I’m away all the time. Not all the time, but enough time. I don’t need to miss them any more. The last days of school, school-related things, big events. Now, my son is 10, almost 11, he is almost like a little guy, a little man. The possibilities for us to do stuff together is just greater and greater. That’s the biggest factor.
Q: Is this year’s Tour de France going to be your last race?
A: No. There is the possibility that I do some other events that are related, I think like last year, that are closely related to the (Livestrong) foundation.
The work we are doing in different countries, different continents, Australia, or Africa, and they don’t necessarily have to be ProTour. They can be non-bike races, triathlons, marathons or just endurance-related events that coincide with the work we are doing. I’m quite certain this is the last European bike race. I’m pretty sure about that.
Q: How do you feel going into your last Tour de France?
A: Athletically, professionally, I feel good; better than last year, more motivated than last year, a different team situation than last year. So from a sportsman perspective, I would like to go out as a winner. That’s not easy to do. We have a very strong field.
I want to have a good time. I want to appreciate the event, maybe in a different way than I have before. Look, 2005 was supposed to be the last one. I can’t say that looking at that race I rode around every day and looked at the spectators and looked at the ambiance of the Tour, and said okay, this is what it is, this is the last time I’m going to see this.
I think I would look at it differently this time. I’m not going to be waving to the fans five kilometres before this first (cobbled) section on Tuesday. I’m not going to be waving to the fans.
Q: What is your level of involvement in cycling going to be when it is all over?
A: Even if I do some events next year this feels like my retirement from professional (cycling). Can I say that? Part of me says: ‘Should the Tour of California (next year) be your last event? You’re an American guy, it’s an American event, go back.” But I’m trying to go out as strong as I can here.
I won’t be able to be at the level of condition that I have now any time next year. My athletic peak was six or seven years ago.
After I started the comeback it was harder than I expected. And I maintain that, it’s definitely been harder than I expected. The reason is the mix of my age and the break.
Q: How have you been dealing with Floyd Landis’s allegations (that you have been doping)?
A: I did my first Tour in 1993 and now it’s 2010. And I won a stage in 1993 at 20 years old. I’ve been at the front of my sport since the day I showed up. And in the process there have been a ton of questions and a ton of scrutiny and a lot of controls and a lot of investigations.
And I’m still here. I don’t see any other example in cycling or any other sports. And this is neglected to be reported. And I understand that media love the sensational story and they love the salacious and the one that includes accusations, that includes all the blood and sex and drugs.
But at the end of the day, I think my career speaks for itself. It didn’t start two months ago; it started in 1999 which is eleven years ago and I’m still here. I’ll look to the next three weeks, which I’m viewing from just a sports perspective. I’m not going to let any of that deter me.
In fact, in the end, it will be the opposite. It’s going to inspire me. Nobody needs to feel bad for me. When you guys want to come you’re going to find me on the beach with five kids running around. I look forward to that day. There will be other accusations for sure, but we can just add them to the list.
Q: What is your best Tour memory ?
A: No one stands up
Q: And the worst ?
A: (The death of Fabio) Casartelli (in a crash). Nothing can be compared to that. You never, ever expect that, although this is a dangerous game.
I look at the eight (RadioShack) guys and would never, ever think that one of these guys is not going survive. To have that happen; it was like yesterday.
Q: It has been reported that there was a federal investigation against you and that special investigator Jeff Novitzky has been looking into Landis’s allegation. Has Novitzky been in contact with you?
A: With me, no. I’m not sure he would call me. But my lawyers no, we haven’t heard. And the other, other reports, early on, was that (ex-wife) Kristin was working with them and that’s just absolutely not true. Kristin and I even talk about this. We’re not married but we have a strong relationship, very strong relationship. But we can safely say this will be the very last investigation.”
Editing by Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com