Armstrong Chases Seventh Tour de France

Fromentine, an ocean town in the Loire Valley, is the starting point of this year's Tour de France. The race got under way Saturday, with American cycling great Lance Armstrong in pursuit of his seventh straight title.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

The comeback from cancer, the yellow wristband bracelets, the intense concentration in the Alps and the six straight Tour de France victories, a record unmatched in the history of cycling, and of course, the rock-star girlfriend. The life and career of Lance Armstrong are as well-known as any in the world. And today, he begins his farewell Tour de France, the last time he'll performs on cycling's great stage. Eleanor Beardsley is at the finish line of today's event in Fromentine, just south of Brittany where the first trial's under way.

Eleanor, thanks for being with us.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY reporting:

Thank you so much.

SIMON: Anybody cross yet and get the yellow jersey?

BEARDSLEY: Well, not the yellow jersey, but people have been crossing now for about half an hour, and the crowds are cheering every person that comes over, so Lance Armstrong will be going last, very last, since he won last year, so we won't know till the very end who wins, and that'll be in about three hours.

SIMON: Eleanor, I suspect we're going to be talking about Lance Armstrong one way or another for the next three weeks, so tell us today a little bit about his competitors, 'cause they're great cyclists, and now's their seventh shot at him. What are some of them doing to try and figure out a way to beat him?

BEARDSLEY: Yeah, absolutely. All different headlines this morning were about Lance the man to beat. And they're saying his two biggest competitors are Italian Ivan Basso and German Jan Ullrich, and both of those men have been training very hard. Jan Ulrich at his Swiss chalet a $300,000 training facility to simulate high-altitude conditions to increase his red blood cells, and Ivan Basso has been training in wind tunnels at, they say, $1,000 an hour to increase his performance in the Cannes(ph) trials. So you know, it might be the last year for Lance Armstrong to win it, but it's also the last year to beat Lance Armstrong, and Jan Ulrich has come in second to Lance Armstrong...

SIMON: Yeah.

BEARDSLEY: ...five times, so you can imagine that they really want to beat him.

SIMON: Yeah, talk about a perpetual bridesmaid.

BEARDSLEY: Exactly.

SIMON: I do wonder--now Lance Armstrong's cycling for a new team this year and teammates are important in a competition like this. His teammates are different too, aren't they?

BEARDSLEY: That's right. They are different, and he has, you know, lost some really close supporters, but ...(unintelligible) but like Floyd Landis, who's now riding for another team, but he still has the team around him. Now it is a little bit less American ...(unintelligible) on the international, so there's about seven Americans on the 28-member team. But people are saying it's just a new look and a new sponsor, and things won't change that much, but I was just speaking with, you know, a sports journalist who said Lance Armstrong will not win this year because of his team. He doesn't have the Americans surrounding him like he used to. So obviously some people say that might make a difference.

SIMON: Well, thanks very much. I guess he's riding for the Discovery team. Eleanor Beardsley.

And it's 22 minutes before the hour. The hour.

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