Interview: Lance Armstrong
By Bruce Hildenbrand | Friday, November 7, 2008 2.55pm
Lance Armstrong spins while his technical crew takes note: Steve Hed (glasses and ponytail), Chris Carmichael (right) and Ben Coates (standing, far right). Gary Boulanger
After his session in the San Diego Air and Space Technology Low Speed Wind Tunnel on November 4, Lance Armstrong spoke about his comeback, his relationship with the French, Linus Gerdemann and time trial positioning.
The subject of Armstrong's possible participation in the 2009 Tour de France was a hot topic. "I am not trying to be coy," said the seven-time Tour champion. "I am not playing games with them [ASO], with the fans, the media. I simply don't know and I am not in a hurry to decide.
"I am realistic about a lot of things when it comes to the Tour and I know there is tension between the French fans, French media and certainly with the organisers. And I don't want to deal with it now or perhaps even in July. So I have to find this balance of 'do I want to try to go for an eighth Tour or help the team win a Tour' or 'do I want to help further the international cancer campaign' and all this over the animosity that exists."
For now, the decision to ride the Tour is on the back burner as Armstrong prepares for an early start to his 2009 campaign and a possible challenge in the Spring Classics. "I am going to Italy [Giro], Tour of Flanders, all the classics of cycling [except Roubaix], Tour of California, Criterium International, Circuit de la Sarthe, but I don't want it to appear as if we are playing games with them [Tour organisers] or the fans. It is simply not a decision we are ready to make," he said.
To see the video of the interview click below:
Armstrong vs. the French: It's personal
The 1993 World Champion offered an interesting insight into his love-hate relationship with the Tour and the French fans. "The media likes to play it up with all this suspicion in and around doping. That suspicion exists in cycling but it makes no sense that you cross a border from France to Italy and that suspicion goes away and you are all of a sudden welcomed. It is just a personal animosity."
So what does he believe is behind the French anti-Armstrong mentality? "I think the way that I raced the Tour; the methodical robotic approach to racing; not showing emotion; not showing pain, suffering or ease. It's not a popular style of racing in France.
"To them, panache is the guy who suffers swinging all over his bike looking like he is about to fall off. I never found that to be an effective way to try and win. To me it was also a game you played with the competitors and their coaches and the directors and the fans. We were always using that to our advantage. They [the French] didn't enjoy that."
Packing heat in the team car
The animosity got so great during his record breaking years that Lance faced real dangers on the road. "I knew that the threats existed," he said. "On l'Alpe d'Huez in 2004 I was going to break the record so I had to decide, do I take a risk here and go for this record or do I say, 'no it's not worth it'. I decided to go for it.
"We had good support from the French authorities and from the French police. We essentially had secret service guys embedded in our team with a couple of French guys packing heat in the car, too. That's always good. You hear about these journalists who are embedded in a team, well we had French police embedded in our team."
Who the hell is Linus Gerdemann?
Recently, German rider Linus Gerdemann said that he was not pleased with Armstrong returning to the pro peloton and that Armstrong's generation and its propensity for drug use is better off out of the sport. When asked, Armstrong deflected Gerdemann's implied accusation:
"He's right, I am older. I raced with Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche, Miguel Indurain and Greg LeMond of all people. I have been around a long time and I don't know who the hell Linus Gerdemann is, but I know that when I rolled up in 1992, I started winning races. And when I roll up in 2009, I'm gonna be winning races. He better hope he doesn't get in a breakaway with me because I can still ride hard," said the Texan.
The ultimate position
While he started with his 2005 Tour time trialling position as a baseline for his wind tunnel testing, Armstrong acknowledged that the status quo will not cut it and that in order to be competitive, he'll have to redefine and modify his position – something he was keen to do at last week's Tour de Gruene. "Well, the rules have changed a little with regards to hand positions, but you have also seen positions change in general. Guys are going longer, narrower and trying to hide behind the hands.
"They drop the chin to toward the [front] hub. Look through the upper part of the eye and really get that whole thing (head, helmet) out of the way. All the while you have the limit on the fore and aft on the seat which you can kind of get around with a shorter seat, but there are limits on the length of the seat."
Armstrong is well aware that there is a tradeoff between a comfortable position and optimal aerodynamics. "I have this hump in my back and I can't rotate my pelvis to straighten it out," he said. "I will go longer, narrower and more behind the hands if I can.
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Armstrong consults with longtime friend Steve Hed (C) before switching bikes in the wind tunnel
"Last Saturday I tried a whole new position, seat back, nose of the seat up, elbows very narrow and bars low and I couldn't pedal the bike. So Sunday we went with nose of the seat down, moved the seat forward, widened the elbows and raised the bars. It was still fast but not as fast. However it felt infinitely better. So if you are five percent slower in the tunnel, but you gain 25 percent of your power back, that's what I mean about the perfect intersection of power and position."
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