No yellow for Lance; Eki's last

Armstrong won't ride the prologue in yellow, while team-mate Ekimov says this Tour will be his last.

Armstrong won't ride the prologue in yellow, while team-mate Ekimov says this Tour will be his last.
Lance Armstrong will not start the 2004 race in yellow as he did in 2003. Instead, he will exercise his right as defending champion to wear his US Postal team skinsuit when the race kicks off in Lige, Belgium, on Saturday. "I feel it's better and more honest to wear my team clothing," the American said. "I'm facing a completely new challenge this year - not continuing from last year." After the exclusion from the race of David Millar (Cofidis), who is being formally investigated by French police after admitting to having used the drug EPO during his career, Armstrong will start the 6.1km-long prologue time trial as one of the favourites. And, if victorious, he'll gladly exchange his team kit for wearing yellow on Sunday's first stage. Ekimov: "This will be my last Tour" Age has finally caught up with Lance Armstrong's Russian domestique Viatcheslav Ekimov, who has decided that 2004 will be his 13th and last Tour de France. "This Tour will be my last one," said Ekimov, who has completed the Grande Boucle 12 times, without abandoning. "This race is just too hard." Besides being the most experienced Tour participant to still be riding, Ekimov, at 38 years of age, is the oldest rider in this year's race, 'beating' Alessio-Bianchi's sprinter Fabio Baldato by four months. Joop Zoetemelk holds the record for the most Tour appearances, with 16 between 1970 and 1986 (missing 1974), again without ever having abandoned. But unlike the Dutchman, who won the race overall in 1980, Ekimov is content with his stage win in Macon in 1991, and has a clear brief of his role at the Tour this year: "I'm here to help and protect Lance during the flat stages." Only George Hincapie has ridden with Armstrong in all the five years of his Tour victories, and is once again on hand this summer in an attempt, with Ekimov's help, to make it six.
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