Baha not impressed with Virenque

Federico Bahamontes is set to lose his record of Tour mountains titles, but says it is a shame that

Federico Bahamontes is set to lose his record of Tour mountains titles, but says it is a shame that
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE In all the clamour surrounding Lance Armstrong's attempt to win a record sixth Tour de France, it has been easy to forget that Richard Virenque has, barring incredible misfortune, broken the record for the number of King of the Mountains successes. But as the Frenchman heads for Paris and the seventh polka-dot jersey that will place him one ahead of Federico Bahamontes and Lucien Van Impe, the Spaniard Bahamontes has described Virenque's success as "shameful". Speaking to Spanish paper AS, Bahamontes, who was 76 during the first week of the Tour, was his usual blunt self. "It is a shame for cycling and the history of the Tour that Virenque has beaten my record," he said. "The race organisation have let this Virenque reach the top of each summit on his own thanks to two cars they put in front of him and the six bikes that surround him all creating an air pocket that lets him climb on a silver tray. This isn't racing." Asked if he could offer at least a trace of praise for Virenque's effort, 'Baha' was disinclined to do so. "If you ask any true French fan of cycling to pick Virenque or Bahamontes, 90% of them would say Bahamontes because cycling after 'Fede' has not been the same." Virenque was not the only one to come in for stick from the 'Eagle of Toledo'. Ivan Basso also caught some flack, as Bahamontes said of the Villard de Lans stage: "What on earth was Basso playing at? Was he defending the interests of US Postal? I may be old, but I can still think straight and nobody can understand why the Italian threw away his last chance to win the Tour by helping his enemy. Do you know that on Wednesday I decided not to watch the Alpe d'Huez time trial as that was the only way I could protest with those pathetic events the day before. I don't think Armstrong should have that kind of help to win the Tour." Even Armstrong's achievements received short shrift from the Spanish veteran. "If I still had the energy to get back in the saddle, I tell you that this American would not have been capable of winning six Tours." His ire was also directed at his fellow countrymen, who have not exactly distinguished themselves over the past three weeks. "Can someone explain to me how the three Spaniards at US Postal have ridden out of their skins while the rest of our riders have flopped. Where are our climbers? Not one of them has troubled Virenque. Not even my local friend Sevilla has been as he should be. Under normal circumstances he ought to beat Virenque using just one leg."
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