In an interview on Eurosport during the 17th stage of the Giro d'Italia, six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong lent a few of his thoughts on what he's seen so far, and what he's likely to see come the 2005 Tour.
Like most pundits, the 33 year-old Texan said he was pleasantly surprised by his team-mate Paolo Savoldelli's performance: "We viewed him as someone who had a lot of potential and a lot of experience. He was a logical choice as team leader for the Giro," he said.
Inevitably, talked turned to the month of July, where Armstrong made clear that Savoldelli will be a key lieutenant for him in his attempt on Tour title #7. And regardless of the outcome, win or lose, he also made clear that 2005 will mark his last appearance as a professional rider at La Grand Boucle.
"If you lose one at the age of 34, I don't think you have a great chance of winning one at 35," Armstrong said. "There are no guarantees that I'll win, but I can tell you that I'm more excited than ever to race. For me, to win a final Tour and then be able to stop immediately after is a dream."
Despite a resurgent Ivan Basso, and the appearance of a new crop of Grand Tour riders such as Damiano Cunego, Armstrong also said it was 1997 Tour champion Jan Ullrich who presents the biggest obstacle to a seventh Tour de France victory. "Jan is the big threat," said Armstrong.
"He's the one who wakes me up early every morning. He says he wants to beat me in the Tour de France. Well, this is his last chance."