Lance Armstrong offered his daily summary of the race after the wind-buffeted fifth stage, which he described as "odd," and then fired off a slightly bizarre but entertaining salvo – slightly reminiscent of the retired French footballer Eric Cantona, if only for its reference to fish – at his critics in the Tour’s press pack.
Stage five was another day, similar to Monday's stage three, where strong crosswinds split the field under pressure from Team Columbia-HTC. This time, the groups managed to come back together before the finish, unlike Monday, when Armstrong was one of the few overall contenders to end up in the front group and snatched 41 seconds on his rivals, including his own Astana teammate Alberto Contador..
"It was an interesting day, because I think everyone anticipated the wind and knew that this part of France is very windy. And with what happened two days ago, they wanted to avoid that," said Armstrong of Wednesday's stage.
Armstrong was surprised at the day's outcome, which saw Frenchman Thomas Voeckler take the stage win just seconds ahead of the bunch sprint.
"Who’d have thought it would blow apart then come back together and we wouldn’t catch that break?" he added. "To me it was an odd day in terms of the overall result, but we stayed out of trouble, and the guys [his Astana team, which at one point massed at the front] looked good."
It was notable that Contador positioned himself on Armstrong’s wheel when the wind was at its strongest. "I told him that today was going to be complicated," said Armstrong, adding what might be interpreted as a provocative observation: "so maybe he sees that I know what’s going on at the Tour de France."
On the subject of his daily summaries, which are dutifully recorded and delivered by the Astana press officer to the main press centre, Armstrong explained: "I think we have an obligation to tell a good story at the Tour.
"There are plenty of people down there in that press room who want to tell a bad story, and if I just stayed cooped up in the bus and didn’t come out to talk about the race then someone down there is scheming up some silly story [or] some conspiracy theory that’s so hare-brained that it doesn’t deserve the fish rack from three days ago."
And there we had it: in two minutes Armstrong managed at least two digs, and a surreal fish reference. A virtuoso performance.
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Richard Moore is a freelance journalist and author. His first book, In Search of Robert Millar (HarperSport), won Best Biography at the 2008 British Sports Book Awards. His second book, Heroes, Villains & Velodromes (HarperSport), was long-listed for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.
He writes on sport, specialising in cycling, and is a regular contributor to Cyclingnews, the Guardian, skyports.com, the Scotsman and Procycling magazine.
He is also a former racing cyclist who represented Scotland at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Great Britain at the 1998 Tour de Langkawi
His next book, Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, will be published by Yellow Jersey in May 2011.
Another book, Sky’s the Limit: British Cycling’s Quest to Conquer the Tour de France, will also be published by HarperSport in June 2011.
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