By Andrew Hood
Lance Armstrong received yet another award this week after receivingthe Grand Prix de l’Academie des Sports in Paris on Tuesday, where he toldreporters he’s behind in his preparation for the Tour de France.
Armstrong said wintry weather at the recent Paris-Nice wasn’t the idealsetting for his return to Europe. Cold weather and a fever prompted theTexan to not start the fourth stage.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have started Paris-Nice. It was a hard race, veryfast, intense and with bad weather,” he said. “I must admit I’m a littlebit behind, more than I normally would be.”
Armstrong insisted he’ll be racing this summer’s Tour, but wouldn’telaborate on where he expects to finish.
“I am going to try it. Only an injury or illness would stop me,” hesaid. “I don’t know if I’ll win, but I will be at the start line.”
The weather-shortened stages and his decision to leave the race undercutwhat was expected to be a solid week of training. Armstrong has since beentraining in Girona, Spain, as the European weather has returned to spring-likeconditions.
“The body quickly wore down and got worse. Then I got sick. Next thingyou know I go home,” Armstrong said. “When you consider race conditions,the thing you can’t emulate in training is the speed. When you shortenthe stages by two-thirds the speed goes up and the time goes down. I wasnot ready for that.”
The six-time Tour champion said he was touched by the prestigious awardgiven to the year’s top sporting achievement.
“I have to say it is an honor to be here. I don’t normally get too chokedup about things like this, but this is special,” Armstrong was quoted onhis webpage. “Winning six Tours is something beyond my comprehension.”
Armstrong joins other sporting greats such Formula One champion MichaelSchumacher and Brazilian national team hero Ronaldo, who previously wonthe award given to the male or female athlete with the best individualachievement over the previous year.
LA defends Olympic comments
Lance Armstrong defended himself after he spoke glowingly about Parislast week in an interview with a French newspaper at the expense of NewYork City to win the bid for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
Armstrong was roasted in the New York tabloid press over off-hand commentsto the French media during last week’s Paris-Nice that he preferred Parisover New York in the Olympics bid, comments he said were taken out of context.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been called un-American. So, I triedto resolve it. I spoke to the city (New York), to the (New York 2012) organizingcommittee,” Armstrong said. “I sent messages to the mayor. It was amazinghow a one-minute interview became worldwide news. Some of the tabloid papers,they let it rip. They took the gloves off. But c’est la vie, asthey say.”
Armstrong reaffirmed his support for the New York bid, but also expresseddismay at the ensuing uproar over his comments.
“As an American my heart has to be with New York City, and I have tosupport the bid for New York City,” he said. “But you also have to be fairand say Paris has a good bid. Are they deserving cities for the OlympicGames? Absolutely. They’re great cities, legendary cities, historical cities.Perhaps I wasn’t strong enough when I said my vote was for New York City.Since it wasn’t strong enough they said, ‘He’s a traitor. He’s a weasel.’”
Freire confident for Milan-San Remo
Defending champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank) is feeling confident goinginto this weekend’s Milan-San Remo. Just days after winning three stagesand the overall title at Tirreno-Adriatico, the new ProTour leader saysdefending his title at La Primavera is his season’s first major goal.
“Even though I won here, my objective was always San Remo. Petacchi,who is also very strong, and I will be the favorites,” Freire told theSpanish daily MARCA. “He has a very strong team, but I am also in formand the sprints after a lot of kilometers always suit me well.”
Freire said his success at Tirreno won’t make him change his priorities,which is collecting world titles seemingly at will.
“No, I won’t change my objectives. I will keep chasing the classicsbecause it’s more important to win a classic than to win a one-week stagerace as important as that may be,” he said. “I would prefer to win oneMilan-San Remo rather than three Tirrenos. There’s nothing to compare,the impact of the classics is much greater.”
LA uncertain for Setmana Catalana
Lance Armstrong still hasn’t decided whether he’ll race next week’sSetmana Catalana. According to the race organizer, Armstrong is DiscoveryChannel’s first reserve, but still could start the March 21-25 race nearhis home-base in Gerona, Spain.
Armstrong didn’t start the fourth stage of last week’s Paris-Nice complainingof fever, but was already back on the bike putting in four-hour trainingrides before the week’s end.
Other big names expected to race include Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Caffita),Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo), Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel), defendingchampion Joaquín Rodríguez (Saunier Duval) as well as IbanMayo (Euskaltel) and Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros), who both are scheduledmake their respective season debuts.
Igor González de Galdeano and Joseba Beloki (Liberty Seguros),however, are both struggling with the flu and might not be able to takethe start. Mayo, meanwhile, has missed five days of training after sufferingknee pain and is also questionable.
Another ProTour meeting
Representatives from the major ProTour teams sat down to meet withrace organizers of the three grand tours in Milan on Wednesday. Detailswere sketchy about whether any issues were resolved, but joining the meetingwere Liberty Seguros’ Manolo Saiz, who also serves as president of theteam’s association, Patrick Lefevere (Quick Step) and Paolo Di Lago (Liquigas).Representing the grand tours were Patrice Clerc, from ASO and the Tourde France, Angelo Zomegnan, from the RCS and Giro d’Italia, and VictorCordero, from Unipublic and the Vuelta a España.
Voigt leads CSC for MSR
German ace Jens Voigt and veteran Giovanni Lombardi will lead TeamCSC down the Via Roma in Saturday’s Milan-San Remo. Voigt is fresh offfinishing fourth and snagging the point’s jersey in Paris-Nice while Lombardisprung Mario Cipollini to victory at Milan-San Remo in 2002. Classics leaderJakob Piil won’t take the start due to a hip injury.
Team CSC for Milan-San Remo
Hushovd front Crédit Agricole
Norwegian sprinter Thor Hushovd is shaking off the ill-effects of flu,but doesn’t expect to be at his best for Milan-San Remo. Set-up man JulianDean could be the team’s wildcard if Hushovd isn’t up to snuff.
“He was hit by the flu for about fifteen days,” said Credit Agricolesport director Roger Legeay. “It is likely to be a little late comparedto best in San Remo.”
Crédit Agricole for Milan-San Remo
Christophe Le Mevel
Davis likes his chances
Allan Davis will lead the charge for Liberty Seguros in La Primaveraafter winning two stages at the Tour of Murcia earlier this month. Unlikemost of the top sprinters, Davis skipped both Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriaticoand prepared in his home base in northern Spain. Angel Vicioso will bethe team’s second card in the classic’s opener.
Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, who abandoned Paris-Nice with the flu, mightnot take the start. The racing world will also get a peak at Olympic silvermedalist Sergio Paulino while Giro d’Italia contender Michele Scarponiwill make his season debut.
Liberty Seguros for Milan-San Remo
Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano