Tale of two countries for Armstrong

Lance Armstrong addresses the press

Lance Armstrong addresses the press (Image credit: AFP)

By Les Clarke in Adelaide, South Australia

Lance Armstrong knows that the reception he has received since arriving in Australia is not what it would be in other nations around the world. Local fans and media have embraced the American, although Armstrong made no secret that Germany would not be on his list of destinations during 2009.

Speaking about the attitude and actions of the German public and sponsors to the plethora of doping scandals during the past three seasons, Armstrong said, "I suppose I understand part of it. If you look at [team] sponsors pulling out, and event sponsors pulling out, or if you just look at people's faith... all these are investments.

"If sponsors have invested financially, people have invested emotions into athletes and invested emotions into events, they feel betrayed. When you feel like you have got a bad deal on your investment, you pull out; just like any financial arrangement, or any emotional arrangement.

"That's happened in Germany. They are pulling out; they're pulling out emotionally and pulling away financially. I'm not German, and I'm not going to Germany, and to be quite honest I don't care if the Tour de France is on in Germany."

Armstrong has never enjoyed high levels of popularity in the nation that produced Jan Ullrich, the American's long-time Tour de France rival. When he announced his comeback, the reaction in Germany was swift, and not particularly positive. Broadcasters feared that this would have a negative effect of viewing patterns, fears that weren't allayed by Armstrong's reaction.

"I spoke with the head of the European Broadcast Union - who is German - and I said, 'I'm sorry, I hate to tell you this, but I'm racing'. And I'm racing for a big purpose," said Armstrong. "'Would I like to be successful? Yes. Regardless of what you or your country think, I'm coming [to the Tour], and I'm coming for a reason," the seven-time Tour champ added.

"I think he understood that. There's a lot of emotion there, and you say hostility; I don't think it's hostile but there's a lot of drama and I choose to ignore it."

Armstrong noted the contrast between this and the situation in Australia, where he said he's enjoyed riding and meeting the public and local political figures. "This is a reality, and it's been interesting for me because you have certain countries and certain cultures that are opposed to it. Then you ride around in Australia, or South Australia, or Adelaide, and you have a completely different opinion."

Armstrong had mixed emotions about the reaction of his colleagues out on the road to his racing return. "There's probably some differing views out there, but you have 200 guys, so you're never going to poll 100 percent in a group like that," he said.

"I'm not worried about that - I'm looking forward to seeing some guys. I've seen some out training and I had dinner with George the other night. I'm looking forward to getting back into the group."

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