Lance Armstrong is concerned that an attempt to win another Tour de France could be hindered by fans in the race's homeland. The seven-time Tour winner's relationship with the people of France has been well documented throughout his career, as well as his comeback, and Armstrong fears for his safety should he contest next year's event with Astana.
"There are some aggressive, angry emotions [in France]," Armstrong told The Guardian. "My safety could be in jeopardy."
Armstrong compared the possibilities with the experience of Belgian Eddy Merckx. "Eddy Merckx would have won six Tours if he hadn't been punched," he said. "It happens to the best of us. Eddy broke a rib, fell over and was out of the race. I try not to think about that stuff."
The American hopes that should he contest next year's Tour, which is yet to be confirmed, that the race will run its course without interference from the public. Armstrong said French team-directors are fuelling the fire, asking fans to "take to the streets."
"Cycling is a sport of the open road and spectators are lining that road," he said. "I try to believe that people, even if they don't like me, will let the race unfold. [But] there are directors of French teams that have encouraged people to take to the streets, elbow to elbow.
"It's very emotional and tense," added Armstrong.
Armstrong has been at the centre of world sports media's attention since announcing in September he would return to cycling at 37 years of age to create awareness for cancer and the Livestrong foundation. He has already contested, and won, local mountain bike and time trial races in the United States of America since making the announcement, and will join Astana at its training camp later this month.
See Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Lance Armstrong's return.