Sunday, July 12, 2009
'Maybe one more Tour' for Lance
TARBES, France -- Lance Armstrong says he could be back for one more Tour de France.
The 37-year-old Texan, who is competing in the Tour for the first time since 2005, was asked by a French TV interviewer if this will be his last one.
"Probably not. Probably not," Armstrong said on France-2 after Sunday's ninth stage. "Maybe one more Tour."
Armstrong is in third place at the Tour, eight seconds behind leader Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy, who is not seen as an overall threat. Astana teammate Alberto Contador, the 2007 winner and main pre-race favorite, is second.
Armstrong said he believes the overall standings will not change significantly until the race reaches the Alps in its third week.
"There's not going to be a lot of change until Verbier," Armstrong said, referring to the grueling 15th stage between Pontarlier, France, and Verbier, Switzerland. "We'll have more moments there when we'll see who's truly the strongest.
"I think that's where the race is going to be decided," he added of the Alps. "The combination of those days from Colmar all the way to the top of Ventoux [on the penultimate stage] is a very difficult six days. We'll wait. The hardest mountain in France is on the last day, basically. You can't forget that."
The seven-time champion, who is riding for the Astana team without salary this year, has previously hinted he may launch his own team next season.
When Astana was hit by financial trouble earlier this year and faced the prospect of being ejected from the ProTour, Armstrong said he could take over the team with the backing of U.S. sponsors.
This year's race is shaping up as a two-man battle between the two Astana stars, primarily because other pre-race favorites struggled in the time trials -- and are trailing badly.
Armstrong was surprised when Contador attacked in the Pyrenees on Friday, making his move in the Andorran ski resort of Arcalis. Asked if he could have easily followed the Spaniard, Armstrong said he preferred to be a team player.
"I wouldn't say that I could have easily followed, because it was an impressive attack," Armstrong said. "I probably could have gone, but I didn't see it coming and it wouldn't be correct for me to go across. So, I waited for the other guys. I expected them to be able to pull it back and they didn't, but that's life, that's cycling, and I had to do the right thing."
Armstrong attacked early during Sunday's stage, a 99.7-mile trek from Saint-Gaudens to Tarbes taking riders up two climbs, including the Tourmalet pass -- one of the toughest ascents in professional cycling. He finished in the main pack, 34 seconds behind stage winner Pierrick Fedrigo of France, along with other favorites.