Posted: Saturday July 23, 2005 4:46PM; Updated: Saturday July 23, 2005 4:54PM
Sen. John Kerry talks with Lance Armstrong on Saturday before the 20th stage of the Tour de France.
SAINT-ETIENNE, France (AP) -- Sen. John Kerry thinks Lance Armstrong would make a terrific politician -- but fears he'd be running for the other party.
Watching Armstrong during his warmup for Saturday's time trial, the Democrat from Massachusetts listed the Texan's winning qualities.
"What's made him so special at the Tour de France, and as an athlete, is the level of focus, discipline, intelligence, strategic ability, and obviously, his endurance -- his ability to just take it on and go," Kerry said.
Those qualities would serve Armstrong well in politics, Kerry said. But Armstrong is also friendly with fellow Texan George W. Bush.
"I think he'd be awesome, he'd be a force. I just hope it's for the right party," said Kerry, an avid cyclist and longtime fan of the Tour de France.
Kerry said he had tapes of last year's Tour delivered during his presidential campaign last year.
Armstrong, who plans to retire after this year's Tour, is expected to seal a historic seventh straight victory Sunday. He has not ruled out a career in politics after he quits.
Like Armstrong admirers around the world, Kerry wears the yellow rubber "Live Strong" wristband produced by the cyclist's cancer-fighting organization.
"He's a terrific person with an unbelievable personal story, and he understands the seriousness of a number of different choices," Kerry said of Armstrong's comeback from cancer.
"It's one of the great sporting accomplishments of all time," he said. "The sheer willpower is stunning."
Organizers: Wait 'til next year
Of course, they respect Lance Armstrong's amazing record, but organizers say next year's Tour de France will be more exciting without him.
"The suspense will be far higher, there will no longer be a huge favorite -- the boss who rules the Tour de France will be gone," assistant race director Christian Prudhomme said Saturday.
Armstrong is retiring Sunday -- he hopes with a seventh, and last, Tour victory. He was again dominant this year -- erasing doubts that he lacked the legs and the will, at 33, to keep winning. The Texan crushed rivals in the opening day's time trial on July 2 and then built on his lead in the mountains.
"You cannot say the Tour was overwhelmed with suspense," Prudhomme said. But he insisted the race remained as popular as ever.
"Were there fewer people lining the roads? No. Were there fewer people watching television? No."
Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc added: "I did not get bored, despite the domination of Lance Armstrong."
Race in the fast lane
This year's Tour de France is expected to go down in the record books as the fastest ever.
Going into Saturday's penultimate stage, the average speed over the three weeks was 41.69 kilometers (25.91 miles) per hour. That compares to the record 40.94 kph (25.44 mph) set in 2003, when Lance Armstrong won his fifth consecutive Tour.
The fast speeds this year have again raised questions about whether doping may be a factor, despite the daily anti-drug controls. Race organizers noted Saturday that tail winds followed the riders for much of the Tour, contributing to the high speeds.
"The average will without doubt be beaten," said race director Jean-Marie Leblanc. "This year, there were favorable winds nearly all the time."
"The physical preparation of the athletes is improving, the training, the medical care, the bikes, the state of the roads," he added. "Now, is doping an additional factor? We don't know. The controls, I hope, are as effective as possible."
Passing the test
Eighteen leading riders at the Tour de France were given blood tests on Saturday before the final time trial -- and all passed, cycling's governing body said.
It did not give the names of the riders tested, but said they came from Lance Armstrong's Discovery Channel squad, Team CSC, Rabobank, Gerolsteiner, Iles Balears, Credit Agricole, Phonak and T-Mobile.
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