In the second installment of Armstrong's webcast interview, he talks about being a Texan in Paris; Beloki, Ullrich, Landis... and finally getting that crash out of the way!
How does it feel to have so many Americans, and so many Texans on the Champs Elysees, and to have the Texas flag flying over your hotel?
I have to say, it's a good and a bad thing... The hotel has always flown the Texas flag, and it's just across the street from the American Embassy and the Place de la Concorde, and they only really do that when the president comes, or a head of state, so it's a tremendous honor, especially in the race, and you do ten laps so you get to look up and see it flying up there...
You look up and see it?
Of course! It's a huge honor. The other good thing is that more and more Americans are coming, more and more Texans, and they bring their flags, the American flag, and the Texas flags... But, the bad news is that there were a few Texas Longhorn fans on the Champs Elysees yesterday and for anyone who doesn't know UT football, or UT athletics, this (makes Texas Longhorn's hand gesture) this is the Hook 'em horns hand symbol; but in Europe, it's a very bad thing, that gesture! So I see a few Longhorns fans out there with their Texas flags, saying "go Lance, go Lance" (with the hand gesture), so I started reciprocating, and it's on the front page of all the newspapers here in Paris: "Armstrong with his foul comment to the people!" (laughs.) But well...
There's a communication gap...
Yeah, how am I going to explain that? I mean, I can't! Anyway... It's great when they come out. The people are great.
A lot of people don't like to see the tour dominated every year by an American team, and they're sort of bored with the story now. They've see this ending before and they want a new one. has that been difficult?
Well, We have so much pressure to win this event for the Postal Service, for the fans of cycling in the US, and within our selves, we have to do what we have to do and can't be concerned with what can be viewed as a boring outcome... I suppose that if I were a Frenchman, I wouldn't want to stand at the side of the road and watch some one who has devoted their life to their event, to their Tour de France, I mean, it's his; it's part of his fabric, he loves it.
I would want to see a guy who has devoted his life, what ever country he's from, France, America, the Ukraine; he lives for this event, he loves it, and give his flesh and blood and sweat everyday, and tries to make it exciting, and he attacks and he opens the race up, and he wants to win more than anything... I would support that. I would want to see that. If it was a Frenchman in the World Series, or a Frenchman in the NFL and they just really trained hard and they wanted it, and they dominated... Chapeau! As they say here.
You were born in Texas, but you feel like you have as much feeling and passion for this event and you've learned its history?
I've tried, but of course there are better historians than me...
What are your plans for the race in NYC this weekend?
I'm a little concerned, because George Hincapie told me there are actually cobblestones on the circuit!
You rode on Cobblestones yesterday!
Well, he says they're big cobblestones! I don't have big plans... I hate to sound like a loser, but I don't have big plans. It's a flat criterium, and I'm just flying in that morning from Paris... I suspect I won't be having super legs that day... but to go to NY after everything that's happened will be with mixed emotions, and will be important to me as an American, and as a person who loves New York, and has been to New York, but never to race a bike. New York is a tough city, but it's a great city and it's been through a lot in the past months, but I just hope to show up and do my best.
...but we shouldn't expect to see you sprinting for the line?
Well, I'm not a sprinter, and downtown is flat, so...
What is your relationship like with Joseba Beloki, who you've now been on the podium with three times? What did you say to each other during the race?
It's amazing, you know, you can have someone that you see in other races all year long and it's very friendly, very casual, very open; and then when you get to the tour, there are no words. Words are exchanged in the media in the press and we read it or Johan reads it and we say 'Wow, those are pretty strong words!'
But Joseba is a good guy, he's a quiet guy. At the end of the day he's a class rider, who, I suspect will win the Tour de France at some point.
If you could compare yourself to a Tiger Woods or someone else who has been really dominant, but doesn't really have a rival... I mean, Beloki's been close, but he was still over 7 minutes out. There doesn't seem to be one guy who really challenges you.
I think it's still Ullrich. I think Ullrich is not finished and he's just laying low. He's still there, and I don't know his situation with his knee or his personal life and the problems he's had, but I suspect that he is not finished, and we'll see him back next year; and we'll see him as somebody who watched us this year. Watched me, watched the team. His team watched us, and they'll try to build something.
Ullrich is the one who wakes me up the earliest, because of pure talent. He's won the event. You know, Beloki, he's a great rider, a good guy... he's never won the Tour de France. Ullrich has won the Tour de France, and there's something to be said for that... and he's wicked talented.
Some say this year was really tactical, and others say, how could you lose with a team like that. Which was it?
When you have a team like that... for lack of a better word, you can definitely dumb it out a little more, because it's such a security blanket. You ride along with these 8 guys and it just takes a lot of the risk out of it. I mean, you never have to make real critical decisions, like I thought we would have to make.
We thought he first week would be very tactical; we though it would be really hard physically and mentally, but we never had to do much work, we were never put in a position where we were on the ropes? we lucked out because ONCE had the jersey and they wanted to defend the jersey, which was perfect...
So the crash and loss of 27 seconds actually worked out in your favor?
After the time trial, had I not had the crash, I would've had the jersey by one second, which is the worst position to be in. You're on the same time with some guy, and yet your team has all the responsibility before the mountains. So, maybe the crash was a good thing. I was just glad to finally have a crash, because it's been four years with no crashes and I knew it was coming.
You've had a lot of good luck. In four years just this one crash, and one flat tire. How big a part does luck play in it?
Luck is like the green on the roulette wheels. You've got the black and the red, but where you lose all the money is on the green; and it always falls on green when you really don't want it to. So, I was really waiting for that "green" crash, where you fall over, break a collarbone, and then the race is finished, and I haven't had that.
This crash, even though I didn't hit the ground, it stopped me and I lost half a minute, it still was a big relief for me. It put us a little behind, but not as far behind as we were last year. Last year we were much further behind going into the mountains but it was a relief.
What is your impression of Floyd Landis in his first tour?
Floyd is a special guy. I mean that in every way: he's very strong rider, He's very tough. He had some days here where he was bad. Really bad. Most guys wouldn't have finished the stage, but he hung in there, in his first Tour de France. He had no idea what to expect, but he hung in.
Is he the future of American Cycling?
In my opinion, that's a big label to give someone, and I know him enough (and like him a lot) not to not say that, because, the poor kid... But, he is a complete rider. He can time trial, he can climb, and he's tough. He's really a fighter. He lacks experience, but that we can give him. He'll have a great team... Personally, he's the joker of the team. He's the guy that keeps everybody light, everybody laughing, everybody goofing off. He's the guy who brings the ZZ Top, he's the guy that tells the funny jokes... He's our cheerleader!
What is it like, just stepping up, being the young guy on the team; or being like Tyler Hamilton and trying to lead your team for the first time? Isn't that a big jump for anyone to make?
Yeah, but he has time to learn that, to develop that. What I've failed to mention, is the he's a smart guy. He's a quick learner, he's a smart guy, tons of common sense... I'm not worried about Floyd. He'll learn quickly what to do.
I wouldn't want to lose him, nor would I want to lose any of the other 8 guys. We need to keep this team together, and Floyd is part of that.
More to come... stay tuned...