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Security is once again an issue on the Tour de France, as Britain, Europe and the world takes in the gravity of the terrorist attacks on London. For defending Tour champion Lance Armstrong, an all-American icon racing on foreign soil, personal safety at the Tour has increasingly become an issue as his fame has spread.
In recent years, and particularly since the September 11 attacks in New York, security at major events, particularly open events such as the Tour, has become
an increasing difficulty. "In the world we inhabit we're all at risk every day," admitted Discovery Channel's director of communications, Dan Osipow.
"We're all saddened by what happened in London, it's a sad day for the world, as were the bombings in Madrid and of course 9/11," said Osipow. "But we've gone to some lengths to be comfortable here and we are. This is sport and we expect and hope others to feel the same way.'
But Osipow said that security as a general issue was not one of Armstrong's primary concerns. "I have not ever discussed security with Lance," he said, "but it has been increased over the years for crowd control. It's because of all the people who want to have contact with him. There's so many people at starts and finishes - even this morning in a tiny village when we left the hotel - and there's children and old people around the bus every day, so it's for their safety too."
Osipow also confirmed that Armstrong's former sponsor, US Postal Service, had conversations with ASO, the Tour's parent body, regarding on-race security. "We had discussions with the Tour organisation after 9/11 about security in general and they were worthwhile. But we're confident that they're doing the right thing and that we're doing the right thing."
Even so, personal safety became even more of an issue for Armstrong after he was issued with death threats prior to the 2004 time trial stage to Alpe d'Huez. On that stage, Armstrong, while receiving plenty of support, also received some abuse as he climbed the mountain.
"Alpe d'Huez was a one-off," said Osipow, "because of the nature of the climb and the context of the race. There were a crazy bunch of people there and while most of it was good-natured there were some who wanted to do nasty things. But generally during the race Lance is fine. He knows and understands that it's an open sport."
After the stage finish in Nancy, the race organisation announced that in tribute to the London bombings, a minute's silence would be held at Friday's stage start in Luneville.
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