TDU: When the stars align

Armstrong is the talk of the town in Australia

Armstrong is the talk of the town in Australia (Image credit: AFP)

By Les Clarke

Many of Australia's cycling fans have enjoyed an affinity with Lance Armstrong during the past decade. Some are more familiar with his exploits than those of their countrymen who also race at the highest level, such is the pull of 'The Armstrong Factor'. With the seven-time Tour de France winner in Australia for the Tour Down Under, local fans will get the chance to see their cycling idol in the flesh.

There's plenty of public interest, but what do some of Australia's best riders make of Armstrong? Some have competed against him for the Tour crown (Cadel Evans in 2005), while others have shared podium space with him in Paris (Baden Cooke in 2003). Others have beaten him (Brad McGee in the 2003 Tour de France prologue) whilst another has shared a team with him (Matt White in 2001 and 2002).

Baden Cooke won the green jersey at the centenary edition of the Tour de France as an uncompromising 24-year-old riding for Française des Jeux. The two had won separate classifications, but the Victorian was suddenly on the biggest stage with arguably the world's best-known rider and he still realises just how big a name Lance's is.

"Everyone wants to have a piece of a guy like that, so considering that I think he handles himself quite well," says Cooke. "Everyone knows he's a tough character. There's no denying the fact he's an incredible athlete. He's straight down to business - no ifs, no buts - he's about winning. I find him quite an impressive character."

Read the full Tour Down Under feature.

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