Armstrong still not sure about Tour de France

Posted: Tuesday, January 11, 2005

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Lance Armstrong's mind is on Belgium in April, not Paris in July.

Armstrong remained uncommitted Monday when asked if he will try to win a seventh consecutive Tour de France, but he made it clear his focus this year will be winning some of the spring classic races that have always taken a back seat on his cycling calendar.

''It's time to finally go and win one of the monuments of cycling,'' Armstrong said.

Armstrong spoke as his Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team announced its 2005 race schedule. The team's 28 riders from 15 countries will start 11 days of training in California on Tuesday, but it no longer has a laser-beam focus on winning the Tour de France above all else — as it has in years past.

''It's definitely a departure, beginning the year not focusing on the Tour,'' said Armstrong, the only six-time winner of cycling's most prestigious race.

Armstrong tentatively plans to race in four classics — three in Belgium and one in the Netherlands — before deciding in late April whether to skip the Tour de France, scheduled for July 2-24.

''I'll definitely be in France this summer,'' Armstrong said. ''It just might not be on the bike.''

Armstrong isn't done with the Champs Elysees for good. When it replaced the U.S. Postal Service as the team's sponsor, the Discovery Channel had Armstrong promise to race in at least one more Tour de France. On Monday, he mentioned several reasons for waiting until 2006 to fulfill that obligation.

''Will it hurt to see somebody else sipping champagne?'' Armstrong said. ''I don't know if it'll hurt, but it might make me a little hungry. ... I've read some stuff where the organizers say, 'Well, maybe it's good if he sits out a year and lets somebody else win and then he comes back and then there's a rematch.'

''That does sound like a good idea, but that's not going to be what makes the decision.''

Recently, Armstrong has pined for a chance to focus on some of the one-day races that are favorites among cycling fans. The four classics in his sights are the Tour of Flanders (April 3), the Amstel Gold Race (April 17), the Fleche Wallone (April 20) and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April 24). His only victory in any of those four came at the Fleche Wallone in 1996, shortly before he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

If he doesn't ride the Tour de France, Armstrong said he will likely compete in either the Giro d'Italia (May 7-29) or the Tour of Spain (Aug. 27-Sept. 18). He has never competed in the famed Giro.

Armstrong also would like to break the one-hour cycling record held by Britain's Chris Boardman. Armstrong said he has an initial version of the bike he would use, and he envisions building a covered velodrome at altitude to make the attempt.

''It's something that fascinates me,'' he said.

Armstrong's team unveiled its new uniform, which includes a yellow band at the end of the left sleeve, the latest sign of the enormous popularity of the ''Livestrong'' yellow wristbands sold by the Lance Armstrong Foundation to promote cancer survivorship programs. Nearly 30 million of the bracelets have been sold.

Armstrong also said he was happy with a recent victory in his ongoing libel case against The Sunday Times of London. A judge in London's High Court said in a preliminary ruling last month that the paper had wrongly repeated and had sensationalized allegations he took performance-enhancing drugs. The allegations first surfaced in the book ''L.A. Confidential, the Secrets of Lance Armstrong.''

''We're just now beginning to prove that right,'' Armstrong said. ''We're very happy with the judge's decision. The process carries on. It's not a final, final victory.''



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