French award for ArmstrongClose
Lance Armstrong collects another French award to go with the Vélo d'Or, and begins to turn his attenPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE With a fifth Vlo d'Or victory already wrapped up, Lance Armstrong has won another title in France, succeeding Brazilian footballer Ronaldo as the French Academy of Sport's athlete of the year. According to the academy, Armstrong's sixth victory at the Tour de France was "the best sporting achievement of the year", which is some accolade considering this has been an Olympic year. According to academy president Alain Danet, "Armstrong's palmars is now as distinguished as that of (1,500-metre Olympic champion) Hicham El Guerrouj, Michael Schumacher and Ronaldo." As Armstrong's first pre-season training camp drew to a close in Austin, Texas, the six-time Tour winner spoke to the Austin American Statesman's Suzanne Halliburton about his plans for the coming season. "I've got a clear head. I'm chilled out. I'm relaxed. I feel better than I have at other December camps," Armstrong said from the camp, which is primarily designed to welcome what are now the Discovery Channel's new signings into the squad. The full team will gather at Solvang in California on January 11 for another training camp. After this Armstrong and Discovery team manager Johan Bruyneel will decide which of the Classics the American will focus next spring. As well as devoting more focus to traditional challenges such as Amstel and Lige, indications are that Armstrong may well look at giving more emphasis to Flanders and Flche as well. All are now ProTour events. Only after he returns home to the States in May will the Tour champion decide whether he will defend that title. Speaking of this year's record-breaking sixth Tour win, which came after a very closely fought victory in 2003 and widespread suggestions that his powers were on the wane, Armstrong said: "Last year, I was really preoccupied with all that talk. I was going for the record, something that had never been done before. And boy, there were times when I was starting to believe the stuff people were saying." With that sixth success achieved with great style, Armstrong now has the opportunity to consider other challenges, but few of his rivals believe that he won't be lining up at the start of the 2005 Tour on July 2.