Lance Armstrong will not become a "fat slob" after retirement.

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by Kerry, Jul 25, 2005.

  1. Kerry

    Kerry Guest

    Jul. 25, 2005. 01:00 AM

    MICHEL SPINGLER/AP
    Before this year’s Tour, Lance Armstrong said the prime reason he was
    retiring was to spend more time with his 3-year-old twin daughters Grace,
    left, and Isabelle. His son Luke, 5, joined his sisters on the podium
    yesterday for a special ceremony to honour the cyclist.

    Lance VII crowned
    King of cycling bids final adieu with kids on hand
    Vinokourov wins historic Paris leg of Tour de France


    IAN AUSTEN
    SPECIAL TO THE STAR

    PARIS—The final day of this year's Tour de France unquestionably belonged
    to Lance Armstrong, its seven-time champion.

    But the future of the race may be the man who stepped up to the final day
    podium as the winner of the 21st and final stage: Alexandre Vinokourov. The
    Kazakh cyclist, who won a stage in the Alps earlier, spoiled the sprinters'
    fun by escaping with less than three kilometres to go.

    Armstrong's exceptional record of Tour wins, no one else has won more than
    five, also brought an exceptional event to the awards ceremony.

    Standing in front of a painted plywood yellow road that looked like a prop
    from The Wizard of Oz, Armstrong was allowed to give a brief speech. It
    was, at least in the organizers' memory, a first in Tour history.

    He praised Ivan Basso, an Italian rider who finished second, and Jan
    Ullrich, who won in 1997 when Armstrong was absent for cancer treatment but
    has never been able to defeat the American. Armstrong also praised his
    Discovery Channel team for having "absolutely the best program in the
    world."

    With his twin daughters, dressed in yellow, and his son beside him,
    Armstrong also took one last shot at journalists and others who have
    suggested that his Tour record, and other cycling feats, are mostly the
    product of performance enhancing drugs.

    "For people who don't believe in cycling — the cynics and the skeptics —
    I'm sorry that you can't dream big and that you don't believe in miracles,"
    Armstrong said. "Vive le Tour, forever."

    As he did for the start of final stage of his first successful Tour in
    1999, Armstrong and the rest of the field travelled to a suburb of Paris in
    a high-speed train.

    That earlier trip provided one of the few occasions when Armstrong appeared
    anything but fearless. After being invited to have a turn operating the
    locomotive, Armstrong momentarily balked when he saw that involved stepping
    across a gap that exposed the rails flashing past at several hundred
    kilometres an hour.

    There was little to upset Armstrong yesterday as he headed into Paris to
    become the Tour's champion of champions.

    The drizzly weather early in the race made roads slick causing numerous
    small accidents, including one in front of Armstrong which he avoided only
    by coming to a complete stop.

    Exactly how Armstrong will fill his retirement days isn't clear.

    "It's not as if I want to sit around and be a fat slob now," Armstrong said
    at a press conference on Saturday. He suggested that he may participate in
    10-km runs, triathlons and cyclo-cross races (an event that mixes cycling
    and running on off-road circuits) as an incentive to maintain his fitness.

    In any case, Armstrong said he will now attempt to lower his public
    profile, which seems a tall order given his relationship with the rock star
    Sheryl Crow.

    "For the next few years I need a period of peace," he said. "This job is
    stressful and this event is stressful."

    With Armstrong off to retirement, the question for cycling in general and
    his Discovery Channel team in particular is who will succeed him.

    Armstrong is a part-owner of Tailwind Sports, the company that owns his
    team (like sports stadiums, cycling teams sell their naming rights).

    While he didn't directly name any names about who will succeed him at the
    team, Armstrong did mention a top qualification for the job.

    "For the American public to stay interested in cycling and the Tour, they
    need to have an American guy," he said.

    Someone who fits that qualification is George Hincapie, the native of New
    York and the only teammate of Armstrong's to have ridden with him in all of
    his victorious Tours.

    Hincapie was once known as a rider mostly suited for the flats, which
    excluded him from becoming a Tour contender. But Armstrong has twice
    suggested that Hincapie is a potential Tour winner after he unexpectedly
    won one of the hardest mountain stages of this year's event.

    Then again, in his speech on the Champs Elysées, Armstrong said that Basso
    is "perhaps the future of the Tour de France."

    After Basso's mother was diagnosed with cancer, he and Armstrong became
    good friends.

    And then there's Vinokourov.

    During the tour, the Kazakh champion announced that he was quitting
    Ullrich's T-Mobile team, largely because he was tired of playing second
    fiddle to the affable German (Ullrich himself is returning next year).

    Vinokourov's dramatic win yesterday was, in effect, a bit of showing off to
    potential employers. While cycling has no Kazakh sponsors, Vinokourov has
    been more or less adopted by France where he makes his home in
    Saint-Etienne, the industrial town that hosted Saturday's time trial.

    Whoever succeeds him, Armstrong will be taking it all in.

    "I'll promise you one thing. I'll be parked in front of the TV watching the
    Tour de France," he said. "The 2006 Tour de France is going to be very
    interesting."
     
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