Record six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has hinted again that he may not bid for a seventh yellow jersey on the race this July as he wants to beef up his honors list with one-day classics wins. Armstrong, 33, will continue his hugely-successful career with his new Discovery team, the nucleus of which comes from the U.S. Postal team, when the season begins.
However since eclipsing the likes of Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain – all of whom won the Tour five times – Armstrong’s desire to bid for a record seventh victory seems to be on the wane.
In a recent interview with Dutch television station NOS-TV, broadcast this week but recorded in November 2004, the American said he may now turn his attention to the tough one-day classics such as the Fleche Wallonne, Liege-Bastogne-Liege or even Paris-Roubaix.
“I don’t want to go back,” he said when asked if he was to return to the streets of France in July 2005. “I don’t know which realization is greater – do I not want to go back or do I want to do other things? And there are other things that I want to do in cycling.”
Armstrong, crowned the world road race champion in 1993 in Oslo and had already abandoned the Tour de France three times before contracting cancer late in 1996, could now return to one-day racing.
“I feel an urgent need to do those races,” he said. He admitted that because of an ongoing spat with veteran rider Filippo Simeoni, which originated from their respective links with notorious Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari, he would be unable to ride the Tour of Italy.
“I cannot do the Giro (Tour of Italy) because they are trying to prosecute me for sports fraud, so I’m not going to present myself in that country and give them the photo opportunity that they’re dying for,” said Armstrong.
As for the Vuelta a España, Armstrong said: “The problem is that I do think the Giro is bigger than the Vuelta. The big days, in terms of the people, the emotion, the intensity on the roadside, are the Angliru and the Mortirolo (climbs) – and the Giro is bigger.”
Phonak names new director
Phonak’s new team manager, John Lelangue, has moved quickly to name new staff, appointing former Coast director Juan Fernandez as the Swiss team’s new director sportif. Lelangue also named Frenchman Jacques Michaud and Swiss René Savary as Fernandez’s two assistant directors.
The 48-year-old Fernandez, a renowned Spanish tactician, has served in a director’s capacity with several high-profile teams since starting with Clas Cajastur in 1989 and moving to Mapei in 1995.
Under circumstances quite similar his new post, Fernandez took over the director’s post at Festina in 1999, after that team’s scandalous collapse at the 1998 Tour de France. He held that post until the team folded in 2001 and then moved on to the financially troubled Coast team in 2002.
Lelangue, most recently second in command to Jean Marie-Leblanc at ASO, has finalized his take over of the team after being appointed to the post on Monday.
Once regarded as one of the sport’s top squads, Phonak suffered a series of setbacks last season, starting with the EPO positive of former world champion Oscar Camenzind. Camenzind confessed to the infraction and promptly retired from the sport.
In September, team officials announced that Olympic time trial gold medalist, Tyler Hamilton, tested positive for blood doping at both theOlympics and the Vuelta a España. The positive from Athens, however, was not confirmed. Hamilton still faces a two-year suspension for the positive at the Vuelta, although he has been able to retain his Olympic medal.
The following month, Vuelta runner-up Santiago Perez also tested positive for blood doping. Like Hamilton, he is disputing the result. Both riders were let go by the team in an apparently unsuccessful effort to secure a ProTour license for 2005.
While waiting for the judicial process to proceed, Hamilton continues to train on his own in Colorado. Perez, meanwhile, has been offered a slot on the Spanish Relax-Fuenlabrada team. He, too, faces a two-year suspension if found guilty of the infraction.
Phonak team owner, Andy Rihs, announced Monday that manager Urs Freuler and director Alvaro Pino had agreed to leave the team.
Lelangue’s hiring is widely seen as an attempt to secure a wild-card slot at this year’s Tour, since the 34-year-old Belgian has enjoyed an impeccable career at Amaury Sport Organization, which promotes the Tour de France.