LeMond speaks out on ArmstrongClose
Lance Armstrong is having almost as a tough a battle off the bike as on it, with Greg LeMond the latRelations between Greg LeMond, the first American winner of the Tour de France, and Lance Armstrong, the second and most prolific American winner of the Tour, have been distinctly frosty in recent years since LeMond spoke out against controversial Italian trainer Michele Ferrari, who advises Armstrong. After an interview LeMond gave to French daily Le Monde on Thursday morning, relations between the pair are likely to be glacial. LeMond recalls being called by Armstrong after giving an interview to the Sunday Times in which he expressed a very low opinion of Ferrari's ability as a trainer. "He was very violent and very threatening," LeMond, winner of the Tour in 1986, 1989 and 1990, said of the call. "Lance said that I couldn't have won the Tour without EPO, but that's completely untrue because there wasn't any EPO around in that period. Lance thought that I wanted to damage him (in the Sunday Times interview) but I simply wanted to dissuade him from working with someone like Ferrari. I was convinced his relationship with this man was a catastrophe." LeMond goes on to say that, based on a meeting with Ferrari in 1994, the Italian had very little experience as a trainer or in physical preparation. "His thing was the science of haemoglobin. I believe it was him who changed cycling." Pressed on how this change manifested itself, LeMond recalls the 1991 Tour in which his Z team, winners of the team classification the year before "could not follow the pace of the peloton. There was a radical change. Riders who didn't used to finish high up were suddenly beating everyone. After two weeks the speed was so high that neither me nor my team-mates could stay with it. Everyone on our team knew there was a problem with EPO and other substances." More controversially given that his LeMond bikes are distributed by the same Trek company that backs Armstrong, the three-time Tour winner expresses doubts about Armstrong's Tour successes. "There are no miracles in cycling," he said of Armstrong's return to the pinnacle of the sport after cancer. "There is always an explanation. To start with there has to be some innate talent. Hinault and Merckx won on their first appearances at the Tour. I was third on mine in 1984 and second in 1985." LeMond puts much of his ability down to a VO2 max of 93ml. He tells Le Monde that at his peak this was the highest level in the sport. "Today I wouldn't even be in the top 50," he says. "I've studied physiology a lot and I can tell you that no training programme can change someone who has not got a good VO2 max into a champion." Asked about his reaction to Armstrong possibly winning a record-breaking sixth Tour, LeMond denies being jealous and states: "I was a big supporter of Lance the first year he won the Tour. But with all of these stories about it is difficult to remain a supporter." To a final question about Armstrong not having tested positive during his career, LeMond responds: "Everyone says that. David Millar had never tested positive either, but he has admitted taking EPO. The problem with Lance is that you can't discuss this issue with him. With him, you are either a liar like Christophe Bassons or Jesus Manzano, or you are seeking to destroy cycling." Asked at the finish of stage 11 in Figeac on Thursday about LeMond's comments, Armstrong said he was "disappointed and surprised" about having his character and results put into question. He added: "LeMond was my hero and I went into cycling because he was a great champion and did incredible things on the bike."