Fotheringham-The Playground Bully



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B. Lafferty

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Simeoni bullied into line by boss
Armstrong action disappoints Simeoni

William Fotheringham in Lons-le-Saunier
Saturday July 24, 2004

The Guardian

Lance Armstrong, showing all the diplomatic skills of a playground bully,
stamped his authority on one of the rebels of the peloton, Filippo Simeoni,
yesterday.
Armstrong frequently complains he is not universally popular with the public
but the afternoon's cameo will have done little to counter the feeling that
he regards the Tour as his personal fiefdom.

Pippo's only offence, after all, is that he has taken legal action against
Armstrong in his native Italy after the American questioned his testimony
against the Texan's trainer Michele Ferrari.

Simeoni rode away from the peloton early in the stage, in pursuit of the
day's six-rider breakaway group, and what followed was bizarre. As if to
make the point that he has a personal beef with the Italian, Armstrong did
not ask his team to chase him but caught up himself and the pair rode across
to the leaders.

The peloton slowed as if it, too, could not believe what was going on. It is
unprecedented for the maillot jaune to behave in this way, letting a
personal matter interfere with the racing. In the little group Armstrong,
Simeoni and Vicente Garcia Acosta had an intense discussion before Simeoni
dropped back and Armstrong with him.

At the finish the Italian was a bitterly disappointed man. "I made a super
effort to get to the escape but Armstrong said the peloton would not let the
group remain in front unless I let them go," he explained. "I slowed down
out of respect for the other riders there. He shouldn't worry about little
riders like me."

Armstrong said simply: "I was just protecting the interests of the peloton."
If the common interest of the riders is that whistleblowers in drug trials
are ostracised, perhaps he was but it is not a widely expressed sentiment
among his fellows.

With Armstrong and Simeoni back in the peloton, normal service was resumed
and the escape duly fought out the finish, where Garcia Acosta was narrowly
beaten by his fellow Spaniard Juan-Miguel Mercado.

Today the final podium positions will be decided but yesterday showed one
thing: Armstrong's urge to dominate the Tour de France again extends as far
down as 114th place in the standings, to the smallest fish in the shoal.

http://sport.guardian.co.uk/tourdefrance2004/story/0,14667,1268137,00.html