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Friday, July 16, 2004
Updated: July 17, 12:13 PM ET
President rooting for fellow Texan

Associated Press

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE -- President Bush predicted Friday that Lance Armstrong will win the Tour de France -- and added with a smile that he will triumph in his own race for re-election.

Bush fed his new passion for bicycling by watching the Tour on Air Force One's TV screens, rooting for fellow Texan Armstrong during a punishing stage through the Pyrenees mountains.

Asked by The Associated Press whether he thought Armstrong would pull off a record-breaking sixth straight tour win, Bush flashed two thumbs-up.

"He's going to win and I'm going to win," Bush said en route to Florida and West Virginia -- two critical states in re-election campaign.

"There's no need to worry about either race any more," Bush said with a wave of his hands and a grin.

Armstrong finished second in Friday's stage, leaving main rival Jan Ullrich struggling behind. He advanced the from sixth to second in the overall standings.

Bush has been following the July 3-25 race since it started, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

The president gave Armstrong a ride aboard Air Force One in August 2001, after the cyclist won his third tour. Armstrong presented Bush with a bicycle he had used competitively during a visit to the White House.

The day Armstrong hitched a ride on the plane, Bush had had his annual physical, which showed he had a resting heart rate of 43 beats per minute. Armstrong marveled at the statistics, putting his own pulse at 35.

That was before Bush started bicycling himself.

With his knees causing him increasing pain, Bush switched to mountain biking earlier this year.

It's a different genre of cycling. Whereas Tour de France racers ride light, fast bikes, mountain bikers ride heavier, knobby-tired bicycles over dirt and obstacles.