Lance Armstrong told VeloNews Sunday that his recent spate of crashes has nothing to do with a federal inquiry into allegations of a doping program at the U.S. Postal Service team.
“I might be distracted, but I’m not distracted on the things people are speculating I’m distracted on,” Armstrong said prior to the start of stage 14. “I don’t have any fear about any of that. I know what’s gone on in my life. I rest at night perfectly well.”
The RadioShack team leader crashed Saturday during the neutral rollout prior to the official start, adding to a tally of crashes in this Tour de France that has surpassed that from all seven of his Tour wins.
Heading into stage 14, Armstrong had three significant crashes — on stage 2, when half the peloton went down on an oil-slicked descent; on stage 8 into Morzine, when he clipped a pedal in a roundabout and crashed at speed; and on stage 13, in the neutral zone.
Though he’s not been badly injured, the Texan has spent most of his final Tour de France adorned with road rash and bandages.
The wave of crashes, and their timing in conjunction with a federal investigation that is gaining traction, has led to speculation that Armstrong is racing distracted.
His stage 8 crash came the same day The Wall Street Journal reported that former teammate George Hincapie would cooperate with the investigation; his stage 13 crash came the day German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that Greg LeMond claimed Armstrong attempted to bribe a former rider into accusing LeMond of using EPO during his racing career.
Armstrong also famously crashed out of the Amgen Tour of California in May, just an hour after holding a press conference outside his team bus, where he first denied Landis’ allegations.
However from the outset, Armstrong has maintained that he is innocent, and that he has nothing to worry about.
He restated that Sunday, telling VeloNews, “Falling over because you are distracted in the race, or talking to people, or thinking about time on the beach in two weeks, that’s one thing. But if I was distracted about the other stuff, I wouldn’t sleep at night. And I sleep like a baby.”
Armstrong said his low-speed crash on stage 13, which left his elbow bloodied, was so minor “it wasn’t even worth discussing.”
“The worst thing that happened is that I pulled off a couple of scabs that were on there before,” Armstrong said. “I more fell over, than crashed.”
The seven-time Tour champion added that his continuous slide down the general classification since his GC hopes were dashed on stage 8 has nothing to do with distraction, lack of fitness, or injury.
“Now the time is insignificant, it doesn’t matter if I lose a few minutes here and there,” he said. “I’ve hit the deck a few times, I don’t want to get tangled up again… the finals are sometimes dangerous, I’d rather sit up, take it easy, and not risk getting hurt again. And also save the legs a little, these next four days (in the Pyrenees) are absolutely sinister, so the more I can conserve, the better.”
Armstrong is hoping that by saving his legs and losing enough time on the classification, he can leave his final Tour with a stage win. He also knows with a week of racing remaining, he’s running out of opportunities to end what has been a tumultuous Tour on a bright note.
“I’m going to do my best, but it’s not easy. I think every rider in the bunch knows I want a stage,” Armstrong said. “But a lot of the young guys, and a lot of the opportunists, know that breakaway would be one they would like to be in. It has to be at a hard moment of the race when you can use your strength, it’s not as if by luck I will find myself in a group. I will try to ride at the front and see what happens.”
Either way, Armstrong said come Paris, he expects he will be “relieved.”
“I’m ready to go home,” he said. “I’m ready to enter back into retirement, help raise my kids, run my foundation. I have a lot of work to do. Although it’s retirement, it’s not that easy.”