Of course, there's a little French race to be run in the weeks before the Olympics. If Armstrong is the next Greg LeMond, he will need to make a run at the Tour de France. But here's the pickle: The explosiveness that makes Armstrong so tough in the classics and short stage races like the DuPont is exactly what drags him down in the Tour de France. He's a sturdy 175 pounds, and that's a lot of beef to schlep up the Pyrenees and the Alps day after day. Short of dropping 15 pounds, Armstrong's best hope is to crush the time trials, which has been the secret of Miguel Indur�in's five straight wins. Once a weakness, Armstrong's time trialing has gotten so good that he set a DuPont record with an average speed of 32.89 mph in the third stage. "I will contend for the Tour de France," Armstrong says. "I know that now. It's not going to happen this year. I could kill myself to finish third, but what's the use with the Olympics just 10 days later? I'm going to the Tour strictly for preparation."
That may sound like heresy, but being the new poster boy for cycling in this country has changed a few priorities. A victorious ride down the Champs-�lys�es would be nice, but there's nothing like winning the big one in front of the folks at home.
"I've seen how much a gold medal would mean to the fans and to cycling," Armstrong says. "I'm starting to learn about my place in the sport."