Three years on from his retirement from racing, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong shows no signs of slowing down. Anti-cancer campaigning, opening a new bike shop, running marathons – there’s always plenty going on in his life.
BikeRadar’s US editor Gary Boulanger caught up with the 36-year-old for a walk down memory lane and to gauge his thoughts on the current state of cycling. Here’s an extract of the interview, which you can read in full in the July issue of Procycling, No. 114.
Procycling: What are your predictions for the upcoming Tour?
Lance Armstrong: That’s where it gets harder because I don’t follow pro racing that much! [Laughs] I follow enough to be able to say that I do like Cadel Evans. He had a good ride last year, is riding well this year – that could be a good or a bad thing. I was never able to have a great spring, a great Classics season, and then be competitive in the Tour. It would be super-cool if someone could, so if he’s able to do that and win the Tour – hey, that’s great! I mean who else is there?
Procycling: Well, Damiano Cunego is riding pretty well.
LA: But he’ll never win the Tour. Those Tour climbs… he can’t climb like that. And he can’t time trial like that. And that’s not a slap at him. He’s a little guy. I just don’t think he’s a Tour rider.
Procycling: Who do you see as future Tour winners? Do you think the US is going to spawn any Tour winners?
LA: To the first part of the question. I guess I follow it enough to know him well enough, because he was on our team for a long time, and I know he just won Flanders… If I could pick one guy and say “let’s make this a project”, I would pick Stijn Devolder. I think he can win the Tour some day. He can climb well enough, and he’s lean, skinny, certainly can time trial. Tactically, I don’t know, it’s a little different from winning Tour of Flanders, but he’s got a good team and smart guys around him so that should work.
As far as the Americans go, I’d say we’re at least a couple of years away. Those riders referred to as the Great White Hopes haven’t really panned out. That’s not a criticism of them, it’s just that European cycling is just very different than the Tour of Georgia or Redlands or a VO2 test in the lab.
Procycling: How do you feel about the direction that Tour organisers ASO are taking?
LA: Well, it’s their race so they can do whatever they want. As for the decision to leave out Astana… at the same time they’re allowing in a lot of other teams that are in the same situation, or certainly potentially in more of a “devious” situation, or certainly more of a history. Astana 2008, aside from the sponsor, is certainly not anything like Astana 2007. That’s simply a decision they took as a Johan Bruyneel/Lance Armstrong penalty. And if that’s the way they want to run their event, they’re going to be managing a very small group of people real soon. You can’t make those decisions in world sport.
And they have double standards by keeping in the CSCs and the Rabobanks, all the guys that have a laundry list of problems. If you want to kick one out, kick them all out. They’re just playing games, and that’s a disservice to the sport, to the fans, to the media, certainly to a guy like [2007 Tour winner] Alberto Contador. It’s not fair.
If they want to play games like kids, then play games, but the record will show that I think ASO and the sport of cycling was fairly, if not very, prosperous during our time winning seven. And the record will show that since then it has not done well. And I’m not taking any credit, I’m just saying, for the record, the facts are what they are.