Report by Locutus & Jaime Nichols
Lance Armstrong faced the ladies and gentlemen of the press today in the quaint, Danish-themed village of Solvang, California, looking relaxed and self-possesed, as always. Quick to laugh, and full of good humor, he fielded questions from a international press corps about everything from his training regimen leading into the 2004 season and what's on the schedule in the coming year, to whether or not he uses anger to fuel his victories.
Here at the Daily Peloton, we're going to give it to you straight: Here's that Mr. Five Tour de France Victories has to say for himself as he sets out on a quest for six.
Armstrong in his trademark hunch over the microphones
Photo by Jaime Nichols
On speculation in the European press that he is taking it easier this year, and not preparing as diligently as he has in previous years during the off-season:
"I've seen all that stuff, and followed the coverage, but for me the training and life is still as busy as it was the last two or three years, that hasn't changed; but the training has also not changed that much. Perhaps the profile of certain things that I've been doing is different, but I know what I'm doing. I'm not sitting on the beach every day eating donuts like people think. You go to certain public events, and you're seen on TV or they take a picture, then people say 'why is he going to see a movie premiere when he should be sleeping?' Never mind that it was 7:30 at night and no bike racer I know of is asleep at 7:30 at night."
On the rides the team's been doing in training camp:
"We haven't conquered Figueroa mountain yet. On the first day we went out to Tarantula point, and back in on Santa Rosa. Then yesterday we did some loops out towards Santa Maria, back around Lompoc. We've been trying to go in two groups, actually, 'cause we have a bigger team this year, and to go out with 25 guys is a little counterproductive sometimes, because you have so many guys who are always on the wheel. It doesn't make for very hard rides, because obviously if you're on the back, it's a lot easier. You get 25 guys two abreast, you've got twelve cycles before you get back to the front, so we tried to split it up."
On what the team does in this training camp to get ready and prepared for racing:
"Not a lot. It's still early. January is certainly a long ways from July, but it's even a long ways from the big races in March and April. I think that the most important thing is to take a look at new guys you have on the team. It's the first and only opportunity we have to have everybody together, and when I say everybody I mean 25 riders and close to 25 staff, so it's the only chance we have to do that. There's not a lot of intensity and focus here. I hate to sound like a slacker, but it's still so early, and if guys have little problems here and aren't in great shape we don't worry about that. But with people who are new to the team it's nice to see them, it's nice to be around them, have dinner with them every night, go on rides. It's a good chance to get the season started. We'll do some other training camps later on. They're quite a bit different."
On if he had any messages for the local community:
"If you have farmland, I would sell it to a winery. If you have a winery, I would just keep making wine. That's what seems like has been happening. It's a fantastic area, we're glad to be back. I thought we were blessed last year with the weather, and it looks like we're blessed again. Last year was the first year we had come back, and the riders, especially the Europeans, were really surprised. It looks like we could go two for two. It's a great area for bike riding." [Pause] "They need to pave Gibralter. Gibralter is in terrible shape, and needs to be repaved. We need to talk to the mayor, or some boss." [Gibralter road is just above the Gibralter Reservoir in the mountains near Santa Barbara, and is a particularly nasty climb that goes for several miles at a very steep grade. It's considered one of the most difficult climbs in the region.]
On whether he uses anger as fuel for success:
"Well, it's not much of a motivation any more. I don't get angry about, uh, there's not many things that make me that angry anymore. I think lot of that has worn off, and now it's time to settle into a groove and continue to do what I have tried to do the last few years. Of course along the way you see, and read, and hear about certain things and that helps, but it's not a big factor."
On his European race schedule:
"That's a good question. The race program is basically mapped out, yeah - starting in Portugal, then to Murcia, like we've always done, Milan-San Remo perhaps, Criterium International, Bicicleta Vasca, and the Tour de France. And perhaps if we need a race in June, the Route de Sud, a small 3-4 day race in France."
On his domestic race schedule.
"We're still working on that. There will definitely be a domestic race in April, but it's not certain which one. It's either goign to be the Tour of Georgia or the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico. It's still a little early to say, but definitely one of those two, that's certain."
On whether he's planning to do more training domestically this year than in previous years, and possibly training in Solvang or Austin:
"Austin is not an option in April. Obviously, we wouldn't just fly over for a five-day race. We'll spend about six weeks here. We're still looking at certain places to go and train. It's tough to find the right place for April, especially early April. Colorado is still cold, and other places in the Rockies are still too cold. We're looking for long hard climbs, looking for ideal climates, looking for no traffic, and this [Solvang] is as good an area as any, so it could be one."
On his response to the current doping scandal on his former team, Cofidis:
"Well it's obviously not good for cycling. It's another controversy, another bruise, but I only know what you guys write on the internet, so I can't comment more than what I've read, and that's what everybody knows, other than to say that it's unfortunate and it's bad for all of us. It's like any scandal, you know, it's probably not as big as they're making it out to be, but nonetheless it's still not good."
On whether or not he believes there's any significance to the fact that the last two teams involved in the last two big doping scandals were French teams (Festina, and now Cofidis):
"No. I don't see anything there. The French are the most aggressive when it comes to chasing these things down. That could be the only consistent thing."
On whether he will have a new strategy for this year's Tour de France given that the course is untraditional and was designed to cause creative approaches to the Tour by the teams:
"I don't know if that's the way I would characterize the Tour, the way it is. I see a similar Tour to 2002. In fact the first two mountain days are exactly what we saw in 2002. There are no time trials before that. The biggest difference that I see is the rule they changed on the team time trial, by allowing the maximum lost of 2' 30" for any team. I still don't know that I understand that. But, it's their race and their rules, and they're free to change and do with it what they choose. But if you can consider that a certain team, for example a team with some strong climbers, gets to the second time check and that's only halfway through the race, and they are already 2' 30" down, what do you think they're going to do? They're going to sit up and take it easy. If that makes for good sport, and good TV, and good interest I'd be surprised. Aside from that, I think the Tour is fairly traditional. Obviously the time trial up l'Alpe d'Huez is not, but..."
More to come...