Road

Does Armstrong rule Postal squad with an iron fist?

Texan Lance Armstrong has denied that strong-arm tactics with his team-mates has turned him into some kind of team despot as he aims for a third yellow jersey at this year's Tour. However the 29-year-old (who is participating in the Sarthe-Loire stage race this week), readily admits to forcing "excessive demands" on his US Postal team as a way of pushing his deputies beyond their perceived limits. "To start with, I'm hard on myself. I make a lot of sacrifices, so it's just as important that the other team members be just as professional, which is logical," said Armstrong,

Admits he's 'a hard task master … so I can help average riders become better'

By VeloNews Interactive Wire Services, Copyright AFP 2001

Texan Lance Armstrong has denied that strong-arm tactics with his team-mates has turned him into some kind of team despot as he aims for a third yellow jersey at this year’s Tour. However the 29-year-old (who is participating in the Sarthe-Loire stage race this week), readily admits to forcing “excessive demands” on his US Postal team as a way of pushing his deputies beyond their perceived limits.

“To start with, I’m hard on myself. I make a lot of sacrifices, so it’s just as important that the other team members be just as professional, which is logical,” said Armstrong, according to an April 12 report in the French sports daily L’Equipe. “It’s true that I’m sometimes a hard task-master. But in doing so I can help average riders become better riders.”

Armstrong, who became world champion in 1993 at the tender age of 22, won the Tour de France in both 1999 and 2000. His wins were all the more spectacular since, in 1999, he had only just recovered from a long period of chemotherapy treatment forced by the discovery, on October 2, 1996, that he had testicular cancer.

That day, Armstrong says, was the day he “really turned professional”.”I really became professional on October 2, 1996. Now I have a check-up twice a year and the results are fine,” he added.

October 2 this year will be a significant milestone in Armstrong’s career — it’s almost five years since he found out about his illness. Back then, instead of succumbing, Armstrong battled adversity to come back and win cycling’s holy grail twice in two attempts. That achievement subsequently threw him under the doping spotlight, and took him to the brink of renouncing all further participation in the world’s most grueling bike race. But more importantly, this October has a more far-reaching significance.”October 2 this year will be extremely important for me. The five years that have passed since my (cancer) diagnosis are an indication to me of my chances for survival in the long-term.”

For the moment, Armstrong is sitting way back in the overall standings of the Sarthe-Loire, but says that compared to this time last year, he is in much better condition ahead of cycling’s’ blue ribbon event, which begins on July 7 in Dunkirk.

“I’m feeling in good shape. When I look at my eighth place in the Tour of Catalonia I see that I’m in better shape than I was at this time last year.”It’s a good sign because, in March 2000 I was in better form than in March 1999.”

Copyright AFP 2001