Although journalists asking Tejay van Garderen for a reaction to Lance Armstrong's comment in this morning's Le Monde misrepresented the Texan's comments, van Garderen insisted that any suggestion that a rider must be doped to win the Tour de France is wrong, "because it's been done," he said.
Like the many of the new generation of cycling stars, van Garderen admitted Armstrong had been one of his cycling heroes when he was a kid, saying, "I had his poster on my wall. I was a Lance fan."
Yet it is now up to these young riders to prove to fans and journalists alike that cycling is different from what it was in Armstrong's era.
"I think the sport has turned a corner," van Garderen said. "I finished fifth in the Tour and I did that clean. I believe Cadel [Evans] won the Tour clean, I believe [Bradley] Wiggins won the Tour clean. If Lance chooses not to believe that, I would say that's a pity for him because I think cycling has turned a corner since his era."
Pressed on what he thinks Armstrong's role should be and whether the now-former Tour de France champion should keep his counsel, van Garderen responded: "If he's saying things like he doesn't think it's possible to win the Tour clean then he should be quiet, because it is possible. But if he wants to come out and say, ‘I'm sorry for what I did and I'm glad things are better now,' which is the actual truth, then I think he's a voice that people should listen to. Whether people should listen to him really depends on what he's going to say."
The young American confessed he was "disappointed" when he heard Armstrong admit to doping to win all of his seven Tour titles, but added: "In my mind, he still won those Tours. Yes, there's an asterisk next to that era, but if you look at [Jan] Ullrich, who just admitted [blood doping], back then it was different and he still had to weather the conditions and the elements and the roads and he did all of the training.
"I still think he won those races, but it was certainly disappointing for me as a cycling fan to have all that stuff come out and learn the ugly truth of what was really going on then."
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