Tour de France winner ready to accept an apology from Armstrong
Greg LeMond will attend this year's Paris-Roubaix as he begins a new role as a global cycling ambassador for Eurosport.
Bradley Wiggins will replace LeMond as the last Tour de France winner to ride Paris-Roubaix when he lines up in Compiegne on Sunday but LeMond was arguably the last Grand Tour winner to challenge for victory on every kind of terrain and throughout the season. He finished ninth in the 1992 edition of Paris-Roubaix and was fourth in 1985, when Marc Madiot won alone. Sean Kelly beat LeMond in a sprint on the velodrome to take third place on the podium.
After staying away from most major races for several year, LeMond is happy to share his opinions on Paris-Roubaix, look back at is own memories of the race and analyze the chances of this year's favourites. He also speaks about new UCI president Brian Cookson and reveals that he is ready to accept a sincere apology from Lance Armstrong
Cyclingnews: What does it feel like to be back at Paris-Roubaix?
Greg LeMond: It's exciting to be back. Paris-Roubaix is my favourite one-day race. It is the ultimate one-day race and it is going to be an incredibly intense competition on Sunday as there are a lot of exceptional riders that will show up in superior form, so it should be a really exciting race, perhaps even more so than last week's Tour of Flanders - which was a thriller.
CN: What does it take to win Paris-Roubaix?
GL: It takes a lot of skill, tactics and massive amounts of experience. Each race you learn more and more. It is still a big advantage for the Dutch, Flemish and Belgian riders who grow up on those roads. My first taste of the cobbles was at 16-year-old racing in Belgium as a junior. I won four or five races with sections of cobbles on it and I was instantly hooked.
CN: What was your fondest memory racing Paris-Roubaix?
GL: In 1992 I was physically having a great year, but Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle won it that year. A few years earlier in the 1990 Tour de France, I flatted and Lassalle was in an eight-minute breakaway and headed into a stage finish he would have easily won. But he pulled back and waited for me and if he hadn't I might not have won the Tour that year. I told him I was going to repay that gesture at Paris-Roubaix one day. When the time came in '92 to repay the debt, I really felt great and chased everyone down to help Lassalle. That was my most satisfying Paris-Roubaix even thought I didn't win it (LeMond finished ninth).
CN: One name that sticks out on this year's starting list is Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), who is the first former Tour de France winner since you started the race in 1992. Are you surprised its been such a gap between Tour winners challenging Paris-Roubaix?
GL: When someone tells me I was the last Tour de France winner to race Paris-Roubaix it just blows my mind every time. I can't figure that one out.
CN: Your thoughts on Wiggins' chances for Sunday?
GL: I just love that he is doing it. I think if the is doing it he obviously feels he has the legs to do it and he is a great racer and might have something to prove.
CN: Are there any former Tour winners that you would have expected to have raced Paris-Roubaix?
GL: The only name that immediately comes to mind is Lance Armstrong. I can't figure out why Armstrong wouldn't have given it a shot.
CN: Who are your tips for this year's race?
GL: Boonen is good, but Cancellara with his third win at the Tour of Flanders and his win at Paris-Roubaix last year is so at ease on the cobble stones and tactically very smart, but it is a one-day race and he is going to have a lot of pressure on him too. But this is one race where the favourite doesn't always win. Tour of Flanders is a little more predictable with the climbs, but Paris-Roubaix under dry conditions will be fast and favour a rider with a good team.
CN: Changing subject slightly, what are your thoughts on the current state of pro cycling?
GL: I am amazed that there is still such a love of the sport. I can see the energy from the people and the increasing numbers in mass participation. The great thing about cycling is all these monumental events such as Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France that can override difficult obstacles. The events are actually bigger than the riders and I believe that the spectators and sporting public want legitimate cycling.
CN: What are your thoughts on UCI President Brian Cookson and how would you rate his brief tenure since his posting in September 2013?
GL: I would give Brian Cookson as high a rating as anyone in the history of the UCI. Maybe I am naïve, but I have think there is an amazing sense of fairness from him and respect for the sport. I think that he is getting to the bottom of the issues, which is not necessarily the corruption, but more importantly both how and why did the corruption start? What were the catalysts? Money?
CN: Has there been any contact between you and Armstrong since his confession?
GL: No. He doesn't like me and I am sure as far as he is concerned I am his number one enemy.
CN: Are you disappointed he has not reached out to you and apologised for his actions towards you over the past decade?
GL: No. But I would not have any problem accepting an apology from him if I thought it was indeed sincere. I am always open to it.
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