Despite his string of crashes and losing time on every major climb, despite all the accusations and long-distance polemics with fellow US tour de France winner Greg Lemond, Lance Armstrong insists he is still trying to enjoy his last ever Tour de France.
Armstrong finished 70th on the stage to Ax-3 Domaines, 15:14 behind winner Christophe Riblon (AG2R-La Mondiale).
The seven-time Tour de France winner would love to win a stage as a final swan song but said he did not want any gifts, just as he always refused to gift any stage victories to his rivals during his seven-year reign at the Tour de France.
"It's as unique experience for me to ride up the Pailheres with no pressure at all and be able to look at the people and listen to people. I'm not going to win the Tour. There's not going to be an eighth Tour. That's not a news flash. But I'm going out having a good time," he said.
"I'd still like to get a stage victory but it's hard. They might not let me go early on, so you've got to have your climbing legs and obviously nobody is going to give it away."
"Back in our heyday, we didn’t give anything away, so I don’t want anybody to say 'Hey, let's let the old man have one,' That's not what this event is about. It's a hard sporting event and the strongest are supposed to win, on a daily basis and on a three-week basis."
"I've got 25 of them, I don't need someone handing me one. I'll do my best but as everyone knows, we're running out of chances."
When asked by French television if he will retire, Armstrong responded: "In Paris, yes. I came to the Tour to try and get a good result but I've never been a quitter and I won’t quit now."
On the fifteenth anniversary of the tragic death of Fabio Casartelli on the descent of the Col de Portet d'Aspet, Armstrong said the loss of his then Motorola teammate was one of the moments that will stay with him after his final Tour de France. He also admitted he is now looking forward to reaching Paris.
"I'd rather be somewhere else but we've only got a week to go. I'm doing my best and I'll be surrounded by my family in Paris.
"After that I'll do what I did for four years ago: fight against cancer. There are lots of people who will carry this team on as pro riders."
Despite his differences with Alberto Contador last year when he rode together at Astana, Armstrong said the Spaniard was the favourite to win this year's race.
"I'm definitely an outside observer," he said. "Andy and Alberto are at the same level at the moment but Alberto has the advantage of the time trial. He will probably gain two and half minutes and that will difficult for Andy to get that. If I had a crystal ball, I'd say Alberto."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.