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The Giro media complains: Armstrong is playing hard-to-get

By Andrew Hood

Is Lance Armstrong boycotting the assembled media at the Giro d’Italia?

Astana team officials say that’s not the case, but the seven-time Tour de France champion is playing hard-to-get for journalists covering the centenary edition of the corsa rosa.

“It’s not a boycott, but he’s not happy with what the Italians wrote about him: that he was the instigator of the protest on Sunday,” Astana team spokesman Philippe Maertens told VeloNews. “From now on, Lance said he wants to focus on the race and help Levi to try to win the Giro.”

When contacted by VeloNews this week for additional comment, Armstrong’s spokesman Mark Higgins replied via e-mail: “No boycott at all, but like Philippe said, he is focusing on the race and helping Levi go for the overall.”

Armstrong’s first Giro appearance of his career helped draw more than 1,000 journalists, including the Associated Press and The New York Times, which each sent reporters to cover the Giro start-to-finish, in large part because of Armstrong’s presence.

But Armstrong hasn’t made it easy for hacks chasing a quote.

Armstrong attended a pre-race press conference and was speaking daily since the Giro began, but has recently gone quiet.

According to an informal poll among U.S. media covering the Giro, Armstrong hasn’t spoken since the start of stage 6 to reporters at the Astana team bus, where journalists typically gather before and after stages to catch riders’ reactions to the day’s events.

The apparent media freeze-out has also coincided with the decision by team management to ride in jerseys and shorts with the Astana team sponsors faded out. Riders debuted the protest jerseys at the start of stage 7 in Innsbruck, Austria.

Armstrong was spotted conducting a video interview Sunday morning with Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport before the start of stage 9 in Milan in a restricted VIP area not accessible to credentialed journalists.

Things came to a head following Sunday’s controversial rider protest, when the peloton decided it would not compete at race speed on what they deemed a dangerous circuit.

Several Italian media outlets blasted the peloton and many heaved the blame on Armstrong.

Astana did not hold a press conference on Monday’s rest day and interview requests with individual riders were not granted.

Instead of speaking directly to reporters, Armstrong has been using Twitter and posting video interviews on his own Web page to express his views.

That’s what Armstrong did following Tuesday’s electrifying 10th stage. He crossed the finish line and turned around to go directly to the team hotel, leaving journalists to pull reactions off the Twitter site.

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