Escartín: I'm not interested in second place in the Tour

Fernando Escartín, third in the 1999 Tour de France behind Lance Armstrong and Alex Zúlle, has told Cyclingnews that he has “no interest whatsoever in ‘finishing’ second,” even if that is what happens on Friday when the UCI deliberates over the 1999-2009 Tours and the podium finishers behind Lance Armstrong.

Asked what he thought of such a possible ‘gain’ in placings, Escartín said, “I’ve no idea what they will do about the Tour’s podiums, but for me, I’ll always be third in that race.”

“It was over ten years ago, for goodness sake. I wasn’t even married.”

Escartín is one of a handful of top three finishers from the Armstrong era never to be linked to any doping issues. After a string of top ten places in the Tour, the 1999 race, when he won a stage in the Pyrenees, was his best ever performance.

“I don’t want to finish second or first” he added. “It was all a long time ago and however much they want to, they can’t change history. I was third and that’s what counts.”

Formerly one of Spain’s top climbers, who twice finished second in the Vuelta, Escartín would not be drawn on whether he thought Armstrong was guilty or innocent, but said, “it doesn’t seem fair to me that after so many years and having had hundreds of tests, they now take away all his titles.”

Escartín, who now works with the Vuelta organization, said he believed that cycling has “finally touched bottom – and all this after Festina, too. Cycling is a great sport and not as dirty as some would believe. In the last Tour de France they did thousands of tests and there was only one positive. These days, if you cheat, you get caught.”

“It’s possible that some sponsors have used the Armstrong case as an excuse [to quit], but well, some sponsors may leave, but others will come.”

Cyclingnews also contacted Joseba Beloki, who finished three times on the podium during the Armstrong era, but the former ONCE rider said he preferred not to comment.

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.