At the end of Lance Armstrong’s final mountain stage in a Tour de France career that stretches back to 1993, the seven-time champion described himself as being “a week away from a very private life” when he appeared on French TV alongside French president Nicolas Sarkozy. The pair have a good relationship that, Armstrong said, was based on a very simple fact: “We’re just two old guys who like to ride bikes.”
President Sarkozy, who followed the Tourmalet stage from race director Christian Prudhomme’s car, responded by saying of Armstrong: “The difference between him and me is that he could become president but I can’t become a champion.”
Asked if there is any chance of him becoming president one day, Armstrong firmly replied: “No. I think I’m a week away from a very private life. Beer, family, beach sounds like a good combination. There will also be the bike. I think I have to continue with that. I like the bike, I like good health and the bike is an integral part of that as the president can confirm.”
Did the RadioShack team leader have any regrets this year? “I wish that I was younger, faster. I’ve had my time and I’ve got a long history with the Tour de France. I’ve had lots of good moments, got lots of good memories, I’ve also had some good luck, so I can’t complain and I won’t complain.”
Sarkozy described the seven-time champion as a model personality. “It’s very nice for the president to say that I’m a model,” Armstrong said. “My story is certainly a little bit unique within professional cycling but within the world as a whole there are millions of people who have been ill like me, and have fought that illness and come back.”
The pair were then joined in front of the cameras by Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck. “I think he is a great champion,” Armstrong said of his former teammate Contador. “He is very competitive, he’s got great strength and I think he will be very strong in the Tour de France for quite a few years to come.”
Schleck said he had been pleased to see President Sarkozy on the race, pointing out that his brother Frank had won the stage the French premier had followed to Le Grand Bornand on July 22 last year. “Yes, I had the great pleasure to watch that day and also to see Andy’s victory here today,” said Sarkozy. “The image of Alberto and Andy going head to head in the Pyrenees is a very beautiful one for sport. You’re really two great champions.”
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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