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Meet the press: Armstrong chats with media at Algarve

Lance Armstrong’s arrival at the Tour of the Algarve is the biggest thingthis otherwise modest Portuguese race has seen since the arrival of MiguelIndurain in 1996.Big Mig used this five-day race to kick-start his bid at a record sixthTour, but Armstrong is hoping this race provides a better ending laterthis year than the Spaniard faced in that year’s Tour.Armstrong sat down before 20 or so eager Portuguese journalists Fridayevening to answer some questions. Had he been to Portugal before? Yes,last May for a presidential cancer panel. Does he want to go to the moon?Well, he’s actually thought

By Andrew Hood

Lance Armstrong’s arrival at the Tour of the Algarve is the biggest thingthis otherwise modest Portuguese race has seen since the arrival of MiguelIndurain in 1996.Big Mig used this five-day race to kick-start his bid at a record sixthTour, but Armstrong is hoping this race provides a better ending laterthis year than the Spaniard faced in that year’s Tour.Armstrong sat down before 20 or so eager Portuguese journalists Fridayevening to answer some questions. Had he been to Portugal before? Yes,last May for a presidential cancer panel. Does he want to go to the moon?Well, he’s actually thought about it but not these days.On the more serious business of bike racing and chasing a record sixthTour, Armstrong says its full-throttle between now and the Tour start inLiege.Here are some excerptsOn why he chose Algarve: “The team’s always been here, so it’snot that new that we’re here. For me, I needed to start my season earlybecause I am going to the United States in April. It’s a nice race. It’sgoing well; it was a little dangerous today, but overall things are goingvery good.”Why changes in his time trial set-up: “Change is always a littlerisky, but some changes are absolutely necessary. There are a few changesto my time trial position – you’ll see a change in my hand position – butI wouldn’t say the majority of things have changed.”On departure of Heras, addition of Azevedo: “If you look at thetwo riders in the Tour de France, I think Jose is as strong if not stronger.It’s a question of who wins the Vuelta a España, but it is a questionof who wins the Tour de France.”Tour 2004 rivals: “The biggest rival is Ullrich. You have Ullrichon one level, then on another level you have Heras, Beloki, Hamilton, Basso– who I think could have a very good Tour. Those riders are not on thesame level of Ullrich.”On Pantani: “It’s a terrible tragedy. It’s unfortunate for cycling,for Italian fans, for his family. I’m not going to comment on the rumorsand innuendo. It’s not good (to comment) for a person who’s recently passon – forget cycling – what about his parents, his loved ones?”On his passion for racing: “I still love what I do. To get aresult, there’s a process. To do the process, you have to have the passion.That’s what I still have, fortunately.”On his future: “I’m totally focused on being a professional rightnow. Being a professional bike racer – this is a serious job. It requiresyou to be living in the present, not in the future.”