Work in Sports
American cyclist Lance Armstrong
Two-time Tour de France champion, 29-year-old Texan Lance Armstrong, is competing in his third Olympic Games. Despite a recent car accident in which he fractured neck vertebrae, Armstrong will attempt to win his first Olympic medal in Sydney.
1. What shape are you in to compete?
The neck is still a slight problem. It is still a little stiff. I think it is about 90% right now, which is enough to still ride, train, and be able to race. Sitting on the time trial bike has not been a problem. I did a time trial Saturday in France to see if it would be a problem, and it wasn't. Physically I feel great. I would put my condition at close to 100%. The scary part is trying to avoid another crash on the injury, but preparation wise and condition wise I think it is great.
2. After winning the Tour de France, how did you adjust your training for the Olympics?
The timing is about as tough as it gets. Three or four weeks after the Tour might be good, but six or seven or eight weeks might be difficult. I intentionally tried after the Tour to lose condition and fitness and take time off the bike, and then come back into training and have to basically build back up, even though it is not the same as building back up in January. When I came back to racing in early August after spending 10 days off the bike, it was tough to get back. I would say that it is tough to compare my form now to my form in the Tour. But I don't think that anybody here for these Games or in the time trial can compare their form now to their form in the Tour de France. Everybody is in the same situation.
3. Will your injury affect you more in the time trial or the road race?
The injury will have a lot more affect on my road race preparation because the training I had been doing anyway was time trial specific. I was not doing long training rides, but with the injury I was not able to do five, six, seven hour training rides. They were limited to two, three, or maybe even four-hour rides. To do a race that is 240 kilometers and six hours could prove to be too long for me in the last lap or the last two laps.
4. Can you compare the crashes, the one in the Pierenes and the more recent one, which one was scarier?
The crash in the Pierines was scarier because I had more time to see it coming and to see the accident unfolding. The one three weeks ago happened so fast that I really didn't have time to think about it. In the first crash, there was nothing that I could have done. My tire blew out and sometimes that happens. This time, I think both parties were at fault. Certainly if I go around that corner again, I will be all the way to the right instead of in the middle. The first crash I didn't have a helmet on and this time I did. That was very fortunate because if you saw the helmet, you would understand. Crashes are a part of what we do in training and in racing. It seems like every year I have two big crashes. I did last year, I did this year. Like I said, it is just part of our job.
5. Have you reached the point now beating cancer and surviving two accidents, that you are a cat giving up some of his nine lives?
There is one country where the wise tale says the cat has more than nine lives. Maybe it was Italy. I think they have 12 or 13 lives. Hopefully I'm an Italian cat.
6. How do you compare the Sydney Olympics to your prior two times?
It is a lot different. Barcelona feels like it was a very long time ago for me. Eight years is a long time. I had no experience with the Olympics and I didn't have a lot of experience with cycling either. I was really fairly new to the sport. In Atlanta, at the time I was very sick but I did not know it. I still expected to ride well and I did decent. Now to come back for the third time is special to me, mainly because of the illness in Atlanta that I didn't know about. There was a lot of pressure in Atlanta to perform at home. I wanted to win and expected to be successful. It just wasn't going to happen. It wasn't meant to be. So now to come back with a new career and to be able to win the Tour de France, which I never dreamed of doing before, and to come back to the Olympics for the third time. And to have events like the time trial which they didn't have in Barcelona and they did have in Atlanta, but that wasn't my specialty then. It is special in a lot of ways. A lot of things are different yet a lot of things are the same. I was telling my wife that it feels better this time, I don't know why. I didn't feel at home in Barcelona, and I didn't feel at home even in Atlanta. But last night it was a good feeling when we landed. I'm optimistic.
7. How do you rate winning a gold medal with winning the Tour?
I've always said the Tour de France is the biggest bike race in the world. For me it was the biggest priority this year, but it is over with. The Olympic Games are not over with. To be honest with you in January, March, April, May and June, the Tour is all I thought about. But on July 23rd when it was over, the Olympic Games was then on my mind and was what I was thinking about. I don't want to take anything away from the Olympics, but at this point in my career and where the team is and where cycling fits into my life, the Tour de France is the ultimate. The ultimate challenge and the ultimate goal. That was the case this year. Again, it is over with now. I was lucky enough to be successful and win again. Winning a gold medal is a very big objective. If it wasn't a goal I would have not made the attempt to do it. I would have just said I won the tour, second year in a row, and just vacation time. And no one would have complained. It is hard to re-focus on a big goal two times in one year is difficult. It is a big priority, trust me.
8. Do you think you can win?
For me there was only one reason to come and that is to win. I've been twice before. I don't need to come for vacation. I've never been to Australia before and I can see it would be a nice place for a vacation, but it is not the reason that I came. I hope to have success. I can't make any promises, but I think I've done the work.
9. How much do you know about this course?
I saw both the time trial coarse and the road coarse for the first time on Tuesday. Everybody knows that both circuits have a lot of turns in them for some reason. For me that really isn't bad. In the time trial coarse if it is technical and has a lot of accelerations, that is good for me normally. The road circuit is harder than people think. The climb up from the beach is longer and steeper than most people expect. I think after 240 kilometers it will be a hard race.
10. What do you think about the test that Australia and French scientists have developed to detect EPO at these Games?
It is met with relief. First I'll say that cycling has been criminalized and singled out in this issue. It is something that certainly exists in sport but it is not just cycling. It is all of sport. It is a sports issue, and it is not just one drug. Everybody knows there could potentially be many many drugs. It is a problem, but it is sporting problem, not a cycling problem. For us to be given a test, a blood test, urine test, skin test, I don't care what it is, is good for us because it validates our performances. It validates all the hard work that we do. If you have a great ride and it is too good of a ride, then somebody says you're doped. If you don't have a good year or you don't have a good ride then they say you used to be doped. It gets really old. For us it is a relief that something comes along that perhaps can restore some credibility not just to cycling, but to sport, whether it is swimming, track and field, or tennis. It is a sporting issue.