Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Road

Armstrong: Bumps, bruises aside, he says he’s ready to roll

Lance Armstrong is not looking too good these days: He has a black eye, a cut over his right eyebrow and abrasions on his hands and knees. The six-time defending Tour de France champion crashed at low speed during the start of a training ride last week. He lost control on his time-trial bike and sailed over the handlebars, his helmet splitting in two on impact. Armstrong shrugs it off. After all, for someone who's beaten cancer and rewritten cycling's record book, bumps and bruises are small stuff. “I'm excited about the race. I feel very good on the bike,” Armstrong said

Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.

By Tim Reynolds -The Associated Press

Lance Armstrong is not looking too good these days: He has a black eye, a cut over his right eyebrow and abrasions on his hands and knees. The six-time defending Tour de France champion crashed at low speed during the start of a training ride last week. He lost control on his time-trial bike and sailed over the handlebars, his helmet splitting in two on impact. Armstrong shrugs it off.

After all, for someone who’s beaten cancer and rewritten cycling’s record book, bumps and bruises are small stuff.

“I’m excited about the race. I feel very good on the bike,” Armstrong said Sunday from Nice, France. “And I would even venture to say that I feel better than I’ve ever felt.”

His bid to win cycling’s most famous race for a seventh straight time _ and leave the sport as its undisputed king _ opens Saturday, with an 11.8-mile time trial ride from Fromentine to Noirmoutier on France’s Atlantic coast.

From there, 20 more stages and about 2,230 more miles await before the finish in Paris on July 24. And it’s there that Armstrong hopes to sip celebratory champagne while taking one final lap along the Champs-Elysees.

The 33-year-old Texan still insists this will be his final Tour, win or lose, and retirement awaits. No one else has more than five Tour victories, yet Armstrong said he’s not lacking incentive in his quest to stand atop the podium at the finish and don a yellow jersey one last time.

“My kids weren’t there last year and that was a real bummer for me,” Armstrong said. “And they are going to be there this year. … For them to come over here, come into my office basically, and see their father at work is important to me. And I would love for them to see me in a yellow jersey. That, right there, alone, is plenty of motivation.”

Armstrong, who overcame testicular cancer that spread to his lungs and brain before winning his first Tour in 1999, said the eight other riders who will join him on the Discovery Channel roster represent “our strongest team ever.” That may not be hyperbole, either.

Of the eight, six are holdovers from last year’s winning team _ American George Hincapie, Armstrong’s longtime top lieutenant; Jose Luis Rubiera; Manuel Beltran; Benjamin Noval of Spain; Pavel Padrnos of the Czech Republic; and Jose Azevedo of Portugal. New additions this year are two-time Giro d’Italia champion Paolo Savoldelli and Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych, who was third at the 2003 Giro.

Each is an elite rider, and committed to helping Armstrong win No. 7.

“To finish the Tour, arriving in Paris with the yellow jersey, that’s something that is amazing, unbelievable,” Rubiera said on the Discovery team’s Web site. “And we hope this year’s going to be the same.”

The British bookmaker William Hill lists Armstrong as the 8-11 favorite to win, followed by Germany’s Jan Ullrich _ a three-time runner-up to Armstrong _ at 11-4 and Italy’s Ivan Basso, the third-place finisher last year, at 6-1.

“It’s still the Tour,” Armstrong said. “The roads are open and anything can happen.”

Armstrong will try to keep nostalgia out of his final preparations. He has a long training ride, his final one, scheduled for Monday. On Tuesday, he’ll preview the Saint-Etienne time trial course, a 34.2-mile test that will be used as the Tour’s next-to-last stage, and may be the route that decides who is crowned champion the following day.

Later in the week, he’ll see the opening time-trial course, undergo a battery of medical tests, hold a final pre-race news conference and get some rest before pedaling down the starting ramp Saturday.

“I fully understand that … when I go and do reconnaissance on a course, that is the last time I’ll do that as a rider,” Armstrong said. “I’m not going to lie and say that I start crying when I finish or anything because I’ve sort of been glad that I won’t be doing that anymore.”

There is speculation that the course _ with its less-intense mountain finishes and shorter time trials than in some years _ won’t play to Armstrong’s strengths. Yet he’s undeterred by such talk and believes he’s still at his best.

“Athletes can’t play at the highest level forever,” he said. “So much of it is about timing and figuring just how long the body can continue to do what it does. … This year felt like the right time to stop, and based on what I can tell, I’m ready to hopefully go out at or near the top.”