Armstrong on Track for Tour de France Win
SCOTT SIMON, host:
Tomorrow, unless he runs into a Mack truck or something, Lance Armstrong will almost certainly ride into Paris and retire with an unprecedented seventh consecutive victory in the Tour de France. This year, he's done it without crossing the finish line first in a single stage in the three-week-long race until today. Mr. Armstrong has won today's 35 1/2-mile individual trial in Saint-Etienne, France. Joining us now I guess in his car on his way to Paris is Outdoor Life Network commentator Frankie Andreu who's himself a nine-time Tour de France competitor.
Frankie, thanks for being with us again.
Mr. FRANKIE ANDREU (Outdoor Life Network): No, my pleasure. I was just driving up to Paris for the final day of the Tour de France. And Lance did it, man. He won the individual time trial today beating the Germany Jan Ullrich. So he gets the win that he was looking for.
SIMON: You're not driving, too, are you, Frankie?
Mr. ANDREU: I'm driving right now, yeah.
SIMON: Oh, my word. All right. OK. I'll make my question simple then. Describe the race between Lance and Jan Ullrich if you could. Did it go back and forth?
Mr. ANDREU: Actually, it was Ivan Basso who had the first lead for a while like that. Lance was just a little bit behind, but that's Lance's strategy. He always starts off a little bit slower. Then he gets time checks on how his rivals are doing and then he gradually accelerates and picks it up. He ended up beating Jan Ullrich, the German, by about 23 seconds, and he was just out there to try to prove that he's the strongest rider in the tour, and, you know, he won this stage of the Tour de France which he hadn't won a stage up to this point. And obviously tomorrow when he goes into Paris and rides up and down the Champs Elysees, he'll win his seven consecutive Tour de France.
SIMON: Could you talk for a moment about Jan Ullrich. There's something a little touching about this guy who has won the Tour de France before, but he's come so close seemingly and just always finishes short for the past seven years.
Mr. ANDREU: Yeah, Jan Ullrich has probably finished I think second in the Tour de France five times. So he's definitely the bride's maid and, you know, his biggest nemesis has been Lance Armstrong. In fact, I'm sure Jan is looking forward to the point where Lance is going to retire which will be after tomorrow's race 'cause then he's going to get his shot at glory, but there's a lot of other riders waiting also for Lance to step aside so that they can have their chance at that top spot on the podium, and there's a couple of Americans there also like Levi Leipheimer, Floyd Landis and there's the Italian Ivan Basso. So Jan's placed second a lot of times, and I'm sure he's going to be looking to try to--he's going to have a hard battle on his hands for '06.
SIMON: Why is Eddy Merckx, the Belgium racing legend, still regarded as the greatest cyclist of all time?
Mr. ANDREU: Well, Eddy Merckx won races from January to October, meaning the entire year. I mean, he did the spring classics, the Tour de France, the Volta and all the fall classics, but Lance Armstrong has concentrated more so on just doing well at the Tour de France. And that effort has paid off with him winning seven consecutive Tour de Frances. So while Eddy Merckx might be considered the greatest bike rider ever, Lance Armstrong is definitely the greatest Tour de France rider ever.
SIMON: So what do you do with your life after you've won the Tour de France seven times in a row and presumably has more money than you need?
Mr. ANDREU: Well, I would just go sit on the beach and sip some Mai Tais, but I think Lance Armstrong has probably a little bit different idea. He's stated that, you know, he's going to stay heavily involved with the Discovery Channel racing team, possibly be involved in some television Discovery Channel, and, of course, he's always said that he's wants to spend some more time with his kids, but it remains to be seen. You know, I mean, no one knows what he's going to do. He's going to have some time to kind of get his mind kind of set and ready and get adjusted to retirement life.
SIMON: Will Americans stay interested in the Tour de France or bicycle racing?
Mr. ANDREU: I believe they will. I mean, OLN who's been covering the Tour de France this year every day live is committed to doing it next year. So it's going to have all the exciting programming again, and I believe that once people watch the tour and they fall in love with it and they get addicted to the healthy lifestyle that cycling is, I think they're going to stay interested in it whether Lance is riding it or not.
SIMON: Frank Andreu of the Outdoor Life Network, thanks very much. Have a good trip into Paris, Frankie.
Mr. ANDREU: I appreciate it and stay tuned and watch tomorrow.
SIMON: All right. I will. I guess you'll be on the Outdoor Life Network tomorrow. So maybe we'll take a look if it doesn't conflict with anything on NPR. Thank you.
WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. You're with us.