Armstrong Back Among Tour De France Cyclists The Tour de France began Saturday with the first of its 21 stages. And for the first time in four years, Lance Armstrong was among the participants. Guy Raz talks with Joe Lindsey, a writer for Bicycling Magazine.

Armstrong Back Among Tour De France Cyclists

Armstrong Back Among Tour De France Cyclists

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The Tour de France began Saturday with the first of its 21 stages. And for the first time in four years, Lance Armstrong was among the participants. Guy Raz talks with Joe Lindsey, a writer for Bicycling Magazine.

GUY RAZ, host:

As one big sports tournament draws to a close, another is just gearing up. Riders in the Tour de France dashed to the first of its 21 stages today.

Joe Lindsey is with the riders in Monaco. He writes for Bicycling magazine and he joins me on the line.

Joe? Hello.

Mr. JOE LINDSEY (Writer, Bicycling.com): Hi, Guy.

RAZ: Now, Lance Armstrong, he's back. The seven-time champion of this race. But it's his first Tour de France since 2005 and he recently broke his collarbone. How did he look today? How did he look out there?

Mr. LINDSEY: He actually looked very good. He finished 10th overall today. He's just 40 seconds behind the winner. And I believe that he showed at the Tour of Italy where he came back after breaking his collarbone, because he really had the capability to come back and be at the sport's top level again. He doesn't really look like he's lost much.

RAZ: Now, Armstrong is not the lead rider on his team this year. That honor has gone to a younger rider, Alberto Contador from Spain. What does that mean for Armstrong's race? I mean, can he still become the champion?

Mr. LINDSEY: Yes, absolutely. He can. And in deferring to Contador, he's deferring to a former Tour de France winner as well. And Contador won in 2007.

Contador is considered by many people, myself included, to be the best stage racer of the current generation. So Armstrong's team has a sort of luxury here and that they have the two best champions of two different generations to choose from. I think with Contador, they see the future there and that's why they have selected him as the leader. He's running very low right now. He finished second today and is definitely the go-to guy on the team.

However, if he falters at all, or has any problems, then they do have the luxury of being able to fall back on Armstrong as well. And it is an amazing experience here in this race.

RAZ: Now, Joe, the opening stages here took riders to the hilly streets of Monaco, different than in previous years. How did that affect the outcome today?

Mr. LINDSEY: I think that the course played a very stronghold today. A climb today was much, actually steeper than it appeared on paper. It just - they climb for about 600 vertical feet, which for prologue a type stage, this is a very short individual time travel, like this. That's an amazing amount of climbing.

RAZ: Can you sort of paint a picture of what the scene is like there today?

Mr. LINDSEY: You know, this year's tour, it seems like so far, it has been all about trauma, and having to start in Monaco is only adding to that. It's like, very exotic beautiful place. There are, you know, Maseratis on every street corner. And it's really kind of heightened the anticipation of it compared to last year, for example, on the start of (unintelligible) and it was kind of sleety and a little bit rural and that kind of thing. And here, it's very cosmopolitan. Crowds have been out there, been fantastic. A lot of people out and cheering everyone on, and there's been a lot of excitement in the air.

RAZ: Hmm. Joe, doping scandals have practically crippled this sport. This week, the French sports minister told a TV station there that Lance Armstrong will be particularly, particularly, particularly monitored. Drug accusations have dogged him for most of his career. How are Tour de France officials trying to clean up the races here?

Mr. LINDSEY: Well, they speak specifically about Armstrong but they are also going to monitor a bunch of other riders. There are about 50 riders in total who had been kind of selected because of their history of doing well at races like this at the winning stages. They are placing high in the overall classification. And all of those riders were targeted for extra testing both before and during the Tour de France. So they're stepping up the testing for all of that. And what they're doing is they're taking both blood and urine tests and they will run these during the race for all kinds of different things, all kinds of blood doping, steroids, you name it. And I think that the - simply, the increased frequency of testing, the better targeting that they're doing and more frequent out of competition testing before the race, because that's when doping occurs. Those are the things that are really going to make difference.

RAZ: Now, Joe, you're off to watch stage two tomorrow. Where does that take the riders?

Mr. LINDSEY: Tomorrow, the riders go from Monaco to the town of Brignoles. So we're basically going to go along the Cote d'Azur here. And it's a little hilly to start, but I think that we'll probably see a breakaway go clear. Some riders will break off the front of the pack and try and stay ahead to the finish. I don't know if that will work because the finish is a little bit flatter. And I think that the teams with the good sprinters will set it up for a sprint finish.

RAZ: And I imagine you'll be going there in a car.

Mr. LINDSEY: Yes, we will.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Joe Lindsey writes for Bicycling.com. He's in Monaco covering day one of the Tour de France.

Thanks, Joe.

Mr. LINDSEY: Thank you, Guy.

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