By VeloNews Interactive wire services, copyright AFP2001
Defending Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong of the U.S. Postal team remained tight-lipped as he arrived in Verdun, France after the fourth stage of the Tour de France, a 215km haul from Huy in Belgium on Wednesday.
However the 29-year-old Texan, who has refused requests for interviews ever since he told an Italian newspaper of his links to Italian doping guru Michele Ferrari, had a few words for French television.
Armstrong, who came in with a 75-man bunch seven seconds behind stage winner Laurent Jalabert of France, told TV reporters that this was the first time he’d been tested on the Tour so far.
“It caused quite a problem when Bobby (Julich, American Credit Agricole rider) and Michael Boogerd attacked and raced off to a 10-minute lead,” Armstrong told reporters in French. “Since I’m one of the race favorites we (US Postal) were forced to try and do what we could to slim the deficit. It was a hard day and the team are all quite tired after the effort.”
Armstrong’s team are favorites to take the yellow jersey from Australian Credit Agricole rider Stuart O’Grady in Thursday’s team time trial over 67km from Verdun to Bar-le-Duc.
The two-time Tour winner, who grabbed his first Tour de France stage win here in 1993, was expected to hold a press conference as early as today. However according to his press spokesperson Sophie Doulez no date has been penciled in: “There might be no press conferences until we get to the Pyrenees (12th stage in Perpignan on July 20),” Doulez told the French wire service AFP.
She added that Armstrong, however, was calm about his performances despite speculation after his revelations on Saturday and a long piece by British sports writer David Walsh the following day in the Sunday Times of London.
“Lance is calm. He is able to concentrate on the race simply because of the fact that he knows he is clean.”
Armstrong had admitted to “a periodic but limited six-year collaboration” with Ferrari, who could stand trial this September in Italy in relation to his administering “illegal and dangerous substances” to top athletes.