Lance Armstrong Interview: Twitter, Time Trials and Transparency

Lance Armstrong has returned to competitive cycling after a 3 1/2 year retirement. The seven-time Tour de France titlist, cancer survivor, father of three (soon to be four) children, and global businessman will compete in about a half-dozen races in 2009 for two reasons: to expand his mission of global cancer awareness and to return to the top level of competition, which he said he’s missed since his retirement after the 2005 Tour de France. A few days prior to the Tour of California, I interviewed Armstrong for a cover story for the Sacramento News & Review in February as his team concluded its training camp in Santa Rosa, Calif.

Question: For the last couple of months, you’ve had a Twitter account and you’re very active on it and it’s very popular (more than 70,000 followers. Editor’s note: Lance Armstrong now has more than 154,000 followers). Are you an investor in the company, are you a hyper toe-tapper type or just what’s your interest?

Lance Armstrong: I don’t have a financial stake in Twitter, no. I didn’t even know about it three months ago. But sometimes I feel like I work for them. I get asked about it and it’s unbelievable what gets written in regards to me and Twitter (laughter). But, hell, I wish I had a little piece of the action. But I don’t. But in the end, it’s profitable or beneficial for me and it’s beneficial for the foundation and for the team.

Look, in the last 10 years, primarily 1999 to 2005 I wasn’t the most openly transparent person in the world. And it led people to say, ‘Well, hmm. We don’t know where he is. We don’t know what he’s doing. He won’t talk to us. So, he must be up to no good.’ And even if they didn’t write that you’re up to no good, they would think that you’re up to no good and it would lead to speculation and rumor.

Something like Twitter comes along or accessibility to video blogs, you say, F-it. I’m going to come back and you may not care, but I’m going to tell you what I had for breakfast and I’m going to take a picture of it. I’m going to tell you when I’m on a training ride. I’m going to tell you when I’m at my son’s flag football game. I’m going to tell you when I just cracked a bottle of bad-ass red wine.

You can take my biggest detractor in the press room and if they read that, then after awhile they’ll realize, man, this is really him telling us what he’s doing. And then they realize, ‘You know what? This guy is not secluded in a dark room with a team of mysterious doctors up to no good. This guy is a regular f-ing guy.’ So, I’ve got no stake in Twitter, but Twitter has helped.

Q: Throughout your career, you’ve been a team leader. What do you think of Lance Armstrong as a domestique (team rider)?

L.A.: It’s definitely a possibility. I think it’s healthy for me to remind myself why I came back. And I came back because I wanted to take the Livestrong message around the world and I came back because I wanted to ride my bike again. It’s very simple; it’s not complicated.

It becomes complicated when somebody says, ‘Lance you won the Tour seven times. If you get fourth, you’re going to ruin your legacy. You’re going to ruin a perfect record.’ That’s their impression. That’s the pressure we put on ourselves. We want athletes to be perfect and we want them to hit the game-winning shot, walk away and never come back. Sometimes, they (the athletes) get in the locker room and say ‘F-it. I want to come back. And that happened to me.

Q: From the pictures and video I’ve seen, you look thicker or stronger in your upper body. Has your body changed?

L.A.  When I started training last summer before I decided to come back, I was spending a lot of time in the gym. In the last couple of years, I’ve put on some upper-body mass and put on weight. That’s for sure. And I continued to train in the gym all the way until October. So it’s going to take a few months to get that off. It’s already come down considerably. But the pictures and the cameras can be deceiving, too. But really what the scale says and it’s what it says in April that’s a good comparison, not in February. Still. I’m much lighter at this time of the year than I normally would be.

Q: You’re going to be a father again, and your fourth child will be about one month old or so when the Tour de France comes along. Will you bring him or her along to the finish like your other children or do you have a different plan at this point?

L.A.: He or she will be at the Tour, for sure. Quite honestly, my schedule this year pretty much revolves around my kids’ schedule. (Former wife) Kristin (Armstrong) has been the real hero and very helpful to me and understanding on this comeback. It’s not optimal that I fly from here back home for five days before the Tour of California. That’s the schedule Kristin and I have set out and the kids want to see their old man. I will always travel back and forth to have quality time with my kids. That’s what we’ll do this week and so all that will stay the same as it was the first time.

Q: With all the demands on your time, how do you determine how much time you give to cancer patients and how it occurs?

Lance Armstrong: It’s definitely changed. As the momentum of the foundation has grown, the requests have also grown at the same time. Sometimes the stuff is structured. I’m going to go to hospital ABC tomorrow. You have to call the hospital and the hospital knows you’re coming and you’re either going to give a talk or walk around.

Normally, those are very private and low-key visits. They’re designed for the patients and their families. But I get a lot out of them. The patients in their rooms get a lot out of it. But it’s motivating for me to go do that. And when I say motivating, it keeps me in perspective. It keeps reminding me why I do what I do on a daily basis.

Q: The Tour of California will have a few guys coming back to the sport and others with whom you’ve had long relationships like Ivan Basso, Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton. Any thoughts on being back in the peloton with some of the guys you came through the ranks with?

L.A. Cycling has evolved, but you still have some of the same characters and that list goes deep. Add George Hincapie to that list. There’s a lot of history with juniors to amateur racing to 11 years as a pro. I think for me, the thing to keep in mind at the Tour of California is that Levi (Leipheimer) is super motivated and super, super fit which he confirmed to us here at training camp. So we just have to ride for him and hope that he hammers the time trial as hard as he can like he did last year.”

Q: Speaking of the Tour of California, do you recall the last time you raced in California?

L.A.: Ojai Criterium, 2005. I’ve never raced Redlands or the Sea Otter Classic. But I did do the Race of Champions, which was up there on the same course at Laguna Seca. Back in those amateur Subaru-Montgomery days, we did Visalia, Fresno and we did crits at UCSB (Santa Barbara). There weren’t all in the same area as the Tour of California, like the Tour of the Unknown Coast, I think, in 1990. But some of it was the same. And I did the San Francisco Grand Prix in maybe 2002, 2003. So, there was a lot of California stuff like that, but never the bigger races from around here.

Q: Since you announced your comeback last September and when you began to win to win some of the regional races, has what’s happened on the bike been different than what you thought it might be?

L.A.: No. The improvement has been pretty consistent on what we’ve seen in the tests and in training. All of that feedback is improving and tracking nicely. The question mark is whether it gets to a point and then just stops improving. But I tell you . . . what’s the date day?      . . . Feb. 6. Take Feb. 6 versus any Feb. 6 from any of those other years (1999-2005) and there’s absolutely no comparison.

I had a chat today with Benjamin Noval. He was on my team for a bunch of Tours (de France) and he’s on this team. He said there’s absolutely no comparison to those years. He said I’m much more fitter, much leaner, much more race ready in February this year than in any of those years.

Q: One of the theories going around is that Astana will ride for you in the Giro and then you and the rest of the ream will ride for Alberto (Contador) in the Tour. Any thoughts?

L.A.: I haven’t done the Tour of Italy before, so it’s a box I wanted to check. I don’t know if I’ll be at my top condition at the Giro. But my aim is to be at the top of my game on July 4 (the start of the Tour de France). The Giro leads into that. But if my condition this July is the same as it has been in other Julys and I can get to 90 percent of that in May, that’s good enough to win the Giro. There’s a big IF in there.

We don’t know if it will be the same base on age, based on times, based on an old, creaky body. But all the indications are good. I think realistically, if I were top 10 (in the Giro), I’d be happy. If I were in the top 5, I’d be very happy. And if that takes me into a good month of June, rest and recovery, plus some training, and then the good thing of not having the stress to crash diet or really worrying about race weight going into July then I think it’ll go well.

Q: I’ve read some about your art collection. When did you first get interested in it, and do you remember the first piece you bought?

L.A.: I was started buying art when I build my first home in late, ’94. I always thought that will you can have help designing a home and building a home and picking out furniture, lights, etc. But the owner of the home should pick the art on the walls.

You should pick what your canvas is for the interior of the home. Some people just have the designer go pick out the art. But from the very beginning I wanted to have an active role in what actually went on the walls, especially if you have a home that’s a great art space. It started very recreationally back then, but then through the years, I picked up some good pieces, even when I was racing and traveling. Some of it is fairly important pieces of work, some of it is just stuff you see on the streets and you like and you say, ‘That appeals to me. That appeals  to me. I’ll take it.’

But in the past three years when I was off the bike or just riding a little, probably the thing I was the most passionate about on a consistent basis was the art world. I traveled to different art fairs around the country in Miami or the Armory in New York, just spending time there, not as a hardcore, education art aficionado. But just as somebody who has an appreciation for it. So you pick a Damien Hirst or Andres Serrano.

Q: During the training camp and at other times, you’re wearing the Livestrong kit but your teammates are in the Astana kit. Could you tell me about that arrangement?

L.A: Those guys are paid to race. I’m not paid to race. I’m racing as a volunteer for Livestrong. Legally, I can’t wear Livestrong in the race or I would, but anytime outside of a race I am going to fulfill my commitment to my organization.

Again, it would different if it were Discover Channel (his former team) and you were getting a big, fat salary. You have to train in that kit. But the fact that I’m not taking a salary from Astana means that I can wear what ever I want to wear, I think?

Q: I read one of your Twitter comments about having a glass of wine but no dessert at a restaurant. Can you tell me more about your fascination with Twitter?

L.A. (Laughing) The record will show three things: A. You’re a normal guy; B. You’re open and accessible and you’re giving regular media interviews; C. You’re the most drug tested athlete in the world. Those three things for me have nothing by upside.

Q: Is there any update on your ranch outside of Austin that you put up for sale awhile back?

L.A. No. Selling the ranch . . . we just weren’t getting out there enough and quite frankly the home we ending up building in Austin is big and it has a big yard and the kids love it and now the weekends are occupied there with sports and activities and birthday parties. We weren’t getting to the ranch.

So in exchange, we built a home in Aspen. It’s great for training. It’s great to escape the Austin hot summers and it’s a great community. And that home, although it doesn’t have big walls per se like my home in Austin does, it’s a good art and art will be integrated in that home, too.

The History Of Mountain Bikes: It Was Called The Stumpjumper

(This article originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee in April 2006.)

During the mid-1970s, Mike Sinyard, his friends and other carefree cyclists from California to Colorado began to negotiate winding dirt trails and careen down rocky hills.

Mountain BikesThey rode modified, fat-tired machines called clunkers and hoped for the best. They crashed their modified and renovated 1930s and 1940s Schwinn, B.F. Goodrich and Hawthorne bikes, wrecked their bodies, thrived on the thrill and returned for more.

Perhaps Sinyard landed on his head less often than others. And with a unique convergence of ingenuity, timing and risk-taking, the proprietor of a then seven-year-old road bicycle manufacturer and distributor in San Jose, took another uncharted leap.

Sinyard believed other thrill-seekers might want to get in on the fun. Soon enough, the Specialized Stumpjumper was born.

While others were about to do the same, Sinyard took a business risk not too dissimilar from the chances he took on his bike. With the help of a framebuilder friend from Santa Cruz, he offered mountain bikes to the national public.

With the slogan “It’s Not Just A New Bicycle, It’s A Whole New Sport,” the composite steel, 15-speed, 29-pound bike made its debut. The Stumpjumper had 26×2.25-inch tires, it was painted blue and it cost $750 ($395 for the frame only). The bike’s first production order was 250 units and sold out quickly, followed by another 250.

“It was perceived as quite a risk,” Sinyard recalled. “In fact, when we came out with it, it wasn’t like all of our customers said, “Wow. That’s great. We’ve been waiting for you.

“Most of the customers said, ‘Mike, what are you doing with that big kids’ BMX bike? We don’t want that. What does it have to do with adult bikes? People are going to get hurt on it. We’re going to be in trouble. There was quite a bit of resistance.”

Tom Ritchey, Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze and Keith Bontrager — all now manufacturing stalwarts — were among the mountain bike daredevils who had custom-made machines in bike shops before Sinyard.

Charlie Kelly, another mountain bike pioneer, introduced a publication called Fat Tire Flyer a year before the Stumpjumper’s debut.

But it was the Stumpjumper that jolted the industry. Many others were soon in the mountain-bike-for-the-masses mix and the sport’s popularity catapulted into the 1980s.

In 1988, the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame opened in Crested Butte, Colo., and two years later hometown favorite Ned Overend won the inaugural World Mountain Bike Championships in Durango, Colo. In 1996, mountain biking debuted in the Summer Olympics just outside of Atlanta.

Despite its quick ascension, mountain biking’s success then underwent a vast economic transition.

Early American pro riders like Overend, John Tomac, Tinker Juarez, Alison Dunlap and Missy Giove thrived financially in the sport. The now-retired Dunlap carried a huge American flag across the finish line victory en route to her 2001 world title in Vail, Colo., and the emotional display likely prompted more women to ride mountain bikes.

But the professional component of the sport, short on corporate sponsorship, soon plummeted. Recreational mountain biking began to dominate.

According to the National Bicycle Dealers’ Association, nearly 45 percent of the 18.3 million bicycles sold in the United States in 2004 were mountain bikes.

Mountain biking’s largest Northern California gathering is the Sea Otter Classic, a four-day festival of amateur and professional road and mountain biking at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey.

This year’s 16th annual edition, scheduled April 6-9, includes ts usual diverse selection of pro races, noncompetitive public rides and exhibitions.

While bicycle riding and racing occurs on the raceway’s track and on the recreation area’s surrounding hillsides, the raceway’s infield simultaneously hosts dozens of cycling industry vendors — bicycle manufacturers to T-shirt vendors, nutrition products to apparel companies.

Specialized also will unveil a museum dedicated to the Stumpjumper. The display will include original models, memorabilia, appearances by some of the sport’s pioneers and a lot of reminiscing.

“It’s important, particularly for one reason,” said Sinyard. “It’s not that long ago, but some of the sport’s current best riders weren’t even born yet when the first Stumpjumper was introduced. It’s a little self-indulgent, but it’s also having some fun with the sport and its history.”

The Stumpjumper’s quarter-century milestone is also intimately detailed in a new book, “Stumpjumper: 25 Years Of Mountain Biking.”

The 128-page hardback volume, commissioned by Specialized and produced and written by veteran cycling journalist Mark Riedy, details the history of the mountain bike with a Specialized focus.

The timeline of the various Stumpjumper models, interviews with industry pioneers, and photos of early riders and their favorite mountain rides are all included. The front and back covers are side views of an ancient stump.

“The mountain bike (beginning) really was not so much a technological movement as it was a real mental kind of switch,” said Riedy. “It was a revolution of how people looks at bikes and what bike could do. All those guys (mountain bike pioneers) . . . their big contribution was really a way of looking at bikes and a way of thinking about what bikes are capable of.”

Unlike some manufacturing advancements, the mountain bike’s history also has a unique twist.

Sinyard surmises that a mountain bike more technically advanced than the original Stumpjumper now costs as little as $300, less than half the amount of Specialized’s first production offering. An entry level Stumpjumper, however, now costs an estimated $1,300.

“What we’re seeing is that a lot of the riding is returning to the original roots of the sport,” said Sinyard. “It’s hey, let’s get out with our buddies out and go out for a ride. If it’s raining and muddy out there, that’s all the better. It’s a lot of the spirit of self-expression. I would say it’s escape.”

Cycling in Yosemite: A Pedaler’s Paradise

ParadiseWith rides named Jolly Old East Nicolaus, Deviled Ham Sandwich and Pepe Le Pew’s Stinkin’ Sweaty Ride, two Sacramento-area cycling clubs offer escapades for beginners to experts.

The Sacramento Wheelmen and Sacramento Bike Hikers also offer popular tours to Yosemite National Park, where embellishment or clever nicknames aren’t needed.

“We sort of hijacked this ride from the Sacramento Wheelmen,” said a chuckling Steve Cimini, who with co-organizer Hazi Alwan recently traveled with about two dozen Bike Hikers members on a five-day journey to the park. “They put on a similar tour, and Hazi and I participated in it a few years ago. We kind of looked at each and said, ‘You know, we could do a better job.’ ”

Cimini’s remarks speak to the friendly nature between the two clubs and also to the attractive nature of pedaling in Yosemite, an exceedingly popular destination. Both clubs offer the same approach – recreational enjoyment.

“This is a tour; it’s not a race through the park,” Cimini said about his club’s tour of Yosemite. “So you take your time. And if there’s something you want to spend some time doing, you definitely should do it. You stop the bike once in awhile and get off it.”

With their bikes transported by van to Merced, the participants departed Sacramento early on a Sunday morning via Amtrak. Upon arrival and after collecting their gear, the group rode approximately 50 miles to Mariposa for a one-night stay. The next day, the riders advanced 25 miles to their base camp, Cedar Lodge, eight miles shy of Yosemite.

For the next two days, participants determined their own cycling, hiking or sightseeing tours in Yosemite Valley, with the fifth day reserved for the return ride to Merced.

“One of the reasons we’re leaving on Sunday morning is so we can spend most of the time in the park in mid-week,” Cimini said. “The crowds will be a lot less, and it will be easier to get around and see all the sights. It’s a very scenic and very beautiful route.”

The Wheelmen’s annual trip to Yosemite began several years ago, but it’s on hiatus this year, replaced by a journey to the Sierra Nevada gold-mining hamlet of Columbia.

“The middle day took the riders twenty miles from Cedar Lodge into Yosemite Valley, a short trip but with 2,000 feet of vertical with a couple 8-degree pitches,” said Sacramento’s Geno Masuda, who wrote about the 2002 Yosemite trip for The Wheelmen’s Web site. “Most of the riders spent the day enjoying the grandeur and sights of the Valley, visiting the Ansel Adams Photo Gallery, watching the film on the history and geology of Yosemite, and lunching on the patio of the Awahnee Hotel.”

Touring with a club, of course, isn’t a requirement for cycling in the national park.

Yosemite spokeswoman Kerri Holden points casual cyclists toward the valley’s 12 miles of paved bike paths and recommends two short routes that are also detailed on the park’s web site.

Route No. 1 begins from Curry Village, progresses past the horse stables and continues to Mirror Lake. There’s a designated bike stand just before the lake. On the return journey, Holden suggests, “Stop at the stables and visit our friendly horses and mules.” The estimated round-trip distance is two miles.

Route No. 2 begins at Yosemite Lodge, advances on the bike path across Cook’s Meadow and over the bridge toward the chapel. The course continues past the Le Conte Memorial and arrives at Curry Village. Again, Holden suggests a snack break: “Stop for great pizza or ice cream at Curry Village.”

The return to Yosemite Lodge is accomplished by simply following the bike-path signs. The estimated round-trip distance is five miles.

On either route or a self-determined ride, the paved cycling path in Yosemite Valley is primarily flat with occasional slight inclines and includes views of the Merced River and Half Dome.

While many cyclists visiting Yosemite bring their own bikes, a variety of rental bicycles (including tandems and hand-crank models) and accessory equipment (trailers and helmets) are available at Yosemite Lodge (209-372-1208) and Curry Village (209-372-8319) from early spring through late fall.

Bike rental prices vary from $5.50 per hour to $21.50 per day and include a helmet, which is required for cyclists 18 and younger and recommended for everyone.

Cyclists, who are required to pay $10 for a one-week day-entrance pass, also pedal on the open roads of the park, away from the valley and its designated bike path. The roads don’t have a cycling lane. Maps are available at the various park entrances.

Nissan Juke 2011: The Weekly Driver Car Review

The 2011 Nissan Juke, like its sibling Cube and the Kia Soul, is another automaker’s bold new style. But like two now infamous vehicles of yesteryear — the Pontiac Aztec and Ford Pinto — any new car design too risky prompts diverse opinions.

With the Juke, the mini-crossover that debuted at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, the reactions were immediate, strong and mixed: Is the Juke an automotive revolution? Is it so ugly it’s cute? Or is the Juke just ugly and ill-conceived?

Regardless, the Juke from a sales perspective, is an unqualified success. In Japan, where the Juke debuted to the public in June 2010, strong sales were immediate. Likewise, in Europe and the United States, early sales have been higher than expected.

The Weekly Drive

Is that a station wagon or is it a coupe? And what’s up with that “frowning” front grill and the oddly positioned headlights?

No one said those exact sentences, but that was the jist of the comments. While scooting around town in the Juke and its turbocharged 4-cylinder with 188 horsepower and a six-speed manual transmission, the mini-crossover gave the appearance of a coupe with high-positioned wheels.

But the Juke is a four-door, four-seater (albeit with tight rear seats) and its rear door handles are located flush near the C-pillars and within the window frame.

The exterior is also unique because the front end features a stacked array of lights. Running lamps and indicators are mounted above the front wings, with lenses visible from inside the cabin. It’s a retro look from the 1960s-1970s in rally cars.

And then there’s the front grill. With its prominent frown appearance adding to the other unusual exterior features, the Juke was described astutely by one national reviewer as “downright alien.”

The carmaker’s mantra for the Juke is “The Bold Urban Sport Cross.” Bold is an understatement.


Shifting is smooth, particularly the uplift reverse.

Acceleration is peppy and with the Juke’s 17-inch wheels and tight body, it’s a fun drive.


Could the backseat be any smaller? Two children can sit comfortably, but not two adults taller than 5-foot-5 max.

If the front grill is going to be a face, make it a smile.

Premium unleaded recommended.

Facts & Figures: 2011 Nissan Juke

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 6.8 seconds (manual transmission).
Airbags: Front and rear head and dual front side-mounted.
Antilock brakes: standard
First aid kit: Not available.
Fuel economy: 24 mpg (city), 31 mpg (highway)
Government Safety Ratings: not tested.
Horsepower: 188
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $20,260.00
Manufacturer’s Web site:
Price As tested: $21,580.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years, unlimited miles; Roadside assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles.

What Others Say:

“Nissan’s 2011 Juke is mutt-ugly: The homely hound you adopt because it exudes quirkiness, promises friskiness and suggests an engaging personality. And it is just so.” —- USA Today

“It blends the ride height and looks of a crossover with the soul and sensibility of a hot little hatchback, making for a truly fun-to-drive machine.” —-

“For small-crossover shoppers who want a car that stands out, the Juke has become the one to beat.” —-

What The Wife Says:

“I wish every car had the same ease when using reverse.”

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“Innovation is a good thing, and major props to Nissan with its Juke. It’s fun to drive. It’s economical and there’s a l0t to offer all packed into a little vehicle. Now, about that rear seat?”



So much is happening as the Tour de France approaches, Tour de France Times is publishing a special issue. We’ll be back next week with another special issue and then daily issues beginning July 3 in Liege, Belgium.

As a TFT subscriber, could you please do me a favor? Tell friends and colleagues about the free electronic newsletter or forward them this issue for their consideration. To subscribe, visit:


Jan Ullrich, the cyclist Lance Armstrong continues to predict as his toughest opponent, won the 68th Tour de Suisse by one-second Sunday after a final-day time trial win in Lugano, Switzerland. Ullrich (T-Mobile), the 1997 Tour de France winner and second to Armstrong las year, won the 26.5km final stage by eight seconds to claim his single-second triumph over Fabian Jeker . . . After losing time in the mountain stages, Bobby Julich, the CSC rider from Reno, Nev., finished fifth in the final time trial and placed 13th overall, trailing winner Ullrich by 6:30 . . . Two-time world road titlist Oscar Freire (Rabobank) will not compete in the Tour de France after undergoing surgery to remove a cyst . . . Several teams have released their Tour de France lineups, including the most recent announcement of the Quick-Step Davitamon contingent. It will include a strong lineup group of Tour veterans and a full complement capable of claiming stages: The team’s nine riders will include: Paolo Bettini, Tom Boonen, Davide Bramati, Laurent Dufaux, Servais Knaven, Juan Miguel Mercado, Michael Rogers, Richard Virenque, and Stefano Zanini . . . One of the most clever marketing campaigns TFT has seen will debut July 3, the prologue day of the Tour de France, when Tyler Hamilton, via Watch City Brewery in Waltham, Mass., unveils his nedw beer label, Tyler Clavicale. The 4.8 percent alcohol hefeweizen will be available only during the Tour de France . . . And finally, after watching the final day of the U.S. Open, we’re convinced the marketing team for Tiger Woods should take a look at Tyler Hamilton’s web site to check out the rider’s logo. Woods’ logo looks like a high school art class assignment compared to Hamilton’s classy design.


There are several strategies on how to book hotels for the Tour de France. The official race agency is VSO, but its personnel can get you a great room one night and the next night they can make you a reservation 50 miles from the race site. Some journalists never book rooms. For them, it’s the “spirit of adventure” that’s half the fun. They end their day’s work, drive to a city en route to the next day’s race and take their chances. To read the complete article, visit:


Lance Armstrong arrived in Paris on Sunday after a ceremonial 94-mile ride, his place among cycling’s icons secure with slightly more than a minute to spare. The leader of the race’s centenary for the final 13 days, Armstrong claimed his record-tying fifth consecutive Tour de France inafter enduring nearly three weeks of crashes, mechanical mishaps, poor-fitting shoes, dehydration and diarrhea. To read the complete article, visit:


The Tyler Hamilton Foundation (THF) has announced it will host a live viewing of stage 13 of the Tour de France on movie screens across the United States. Scheduled for Saturday, July 17, 2004, the nationwide fundraiser’s two lead sponsors are Outdoor Life Network (OLN) and Regal CineMedia(SM). The event will be presented in 19 Regal Entertainment Group (REG) movie theaters, and the occasion will mark the first time that U.S. cycling fans will be able to view a live European cycling race on a high-definition screen. To read the complete article, visit:

Lance Armstrong has negotiated a sweet deal that will continue his cycling career through at least the 2005 season. Discovery Communications has announced a new global partnership to become the title sponsor of five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team, the only American team to have won the Tour de France. To read the complete article,visit:

The Tour de France is the world’s largest free sporting event. Spectators can watch every stage in person along the entire route, this year beginning in Liege, Belgium on July 3 and continuing to Paris, France on July 25. To read the complete article, visit:

With all the riding I do, you’d think I would understand and appreciate what the pros do in the Tour de France. Not so, until I rode the route of a mountain stage this summer. I suspected it was hard, but I didn’t know how hard until I tried it. I suspected they were fast, but I didn’t know how fast until I tried it. To read the complete article, visit:

The Tour de France celebrated its 100th anniversary last July with what many believe was the best of the race’s 90 editions. Lance Armstrong overcame several well-documented obstacles on and off the bike to claim his fifth straight title. In all, 53 different cyclists have now won the race. But was the 2003 Tour de France the best in history? To read the complete article, visit:


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Prologue – July 3: Prologue Liege ITT, 6 km
Stage 1 – July 4: Liège-Charleroi, 195 km
Stage 2 – July 5: Charleroi-Namur, 195 km
Stage 3 – July 6: Waterloo – Wasquehal, 195 km
Stage 4 – July 7: Cambrai – Arras TTT, 65 km
Stage 5 – July 8: Amiens – Chartres, 195 km
Stage 6 – July 9: Bonneval – Angers, 190 km
Stage 7 – July 10: Chateaubriant – Saint Brieuc, 208 km
Stage 8 – July 11: Lamballe – Quimper, 172 km
July 12: Rest Day: Transfer to Limoges
Stage 9 – July 13: St Leonard de Noblat – Guéret, 160 km
Stage 10 – July 14: Limoges – St. Flour, 237 km
Stage 11 – July 15: St Flour – Figeac, 164 km
Stage 12 – July 16: Castelsarrasin – La Mongie, 199 km
Stage 13 – July 17: Lannemezan – Plateau de Beille, 217 km
Stage 14 – July 18: Carcassonne – Nimes, 200 km
July 19 – Rest Day: Transfer to Nimes
Stage 15 – July 20: Valreas – Villard-de-Lans, 179 km
Stage 16 – July 21: Bourg d’Oisans – Alpe d’Huez ITT, 15 km
Stage 17 – July 22: Bourg d’Oisans – Le Grand Bornand, 212 km
Stage 18 – July 23: Annemasse – Lons le Saulnier, 166 km
Stage 19 – July 24: Besancon – Besancon ITT, 60 km
Stage 20 – July 25: Montreau – Paris-Champs-Elysees, 165 km


Tour de France Times (TFT), an electronic newsletter about cycling’s pinnacle event and the cyclists who compete in it, is written, edited and published by James Raia, a journalist in Sacramento, California. Tour de France Times is published monthly, except daily during the three-week Tour de France.

Story links, race information, suggestions and letters to the editor are encouraged via e-mail.

Send correspondence to: Please include your name and city and state of residence. Names held upon request.

Use of this newsletter in electronic formats is encouraged with the publisher’s permission. Cheers, James Raia

Measured Redemption: The Life & Times Of Cyclist Jonathan Boyer

(This article originally appeared in the Monterey County Herald on June 11, 2006 the day before the solo divisions of the 2006 Race Across America began.)

Next month will mark 25 years since Jonathan Swift Boyer became the first American to compete in the Tour de France. Four years later, with a national television network audience watching, the Carmel resident won the Race Across America (RAAM), the niche ultra-distance cycling event that takes riders coast-to-coast.

These two varied accomplishments mark definitive moments of Boyer’s long and varied first cycling career that included nearly 125 career amateur and professional victories.

 Jonathan BoyerBeginning today, the 50-year-old Boyer, who runs a high-end bike shop in Marina, will challenge RAAM again. But this time, he’ll do so with additional baggage.

It’s been about four years since he pleaded guilty to multiple counts of child molestation. Boyer served nine months of a one-year sentence in Monterey County Jail in Salinas and is still completing a five-year probation.

“I’ve made mistakes in my life,” said Boyer, who’s divorced and lives with his aging mother. “And now I have two choices. I can hide or I can live my life the best way I know how and that’s on a bike.”

For nearly as long as he can remember, Boyer has enjoyed pedaling a bicycle. As a teenager growing up on the Monterey Peninsula, his advancing skills on two wheels catapulted him through amateur racing and provided great credence for his middle name.

As a young adult in 1977, Boyer took his cycling pedigree to Europe, the sport’s global hub. Often called “Jock,” a derivative of “Jacques,” he rode among the greats — Bernard Hinault to Greg LeMond — and completed the Tour de France five times.

Boyer retired — for the first time — in 1987. But after a 17-year, hiatus he returned to competitive cycling in 2004, a few months after getting out of jail.

Since his return to competition, Boyer has won several age-group mountain bike and road races — most notably at the Sea Otter Classic — while purposely competing against riders half his age.

Many of his competitors don’t know the Boyer name; Other riders remember his legacy, know of his legal situation and have expressed their concerns.

Alison Dunlap, the now-retired world mountain champion and a several-time Sea Otter Classic titlist, didn’t condemn Boyer. But in 2004 when she was interviewed by The Herald during the race, said: “In general, child molesters should be put away forever. The should never get out.”

Last December, Boyer petitioned for an early probation release. The request was denied. “You’ve done exceptionally well on probation, but that’s what you’re supposed to do,” Judge Robert Moody said at the Salinas court hearing

Moody also told Boyer he was lucky not to go to prison and that five years of probation is generous. “If you’re having a tough time dealing with the consequences, it’s the consequence of what you did,” Moody added.

Race organizers, however — the Sea Otter Classic to RAAM — have welcomed Boyer into their events.

“(Jonathan) Boyer is an American cycling legend; he is a hero,” said Paul Skilbeck, a RAAM spokesperson. “Like the heroes of the classics, Boyer is flawed. Interestingly, at the time of the trial he was seen by the judge as posing very little danger to others. Furthermore, it is clear that he has since reformed himself. We believe in redemption — don’t you?”

Boyer knows he has detractors, but opts to focus on what he knows best about his life — cycling.

“I just love cycling,” he said. “It’s part of my whole make-up. It’s not good for me if I don’t ride. It’s an expression of who I am. I enjoy riding. I like being out there. The more I ride and the more fit I get, the more I am able to go farther and faster.”

Despite his more than 35-year passion for the sport, Boyer had no intention of competing in RAAM again. But last summer, through his 20-year friendship Dr. Eric Heiden and Dr. Max Testa, Boyer became the crew chief for the physicians and their involvement with Team Donate Life in Sacramento.

Sponsored by the organ donation charity, the group raised money while completing RAAM as a eight-rider team. Heide

In, the 1980 five-time Olympic speed skating gold medalist, was Boyer’s teammate and roommate in the mid-1980s. They rode for 7-Eleven, the first U.S. team to compete in the Tour de France. Testa, a sports medicine specialist, was the team’s physician.

Heiden, who occasionally still rides with Boyer, encouraged his former teammate. Testa, who provides Boyer’s physiological testing, was amazed at the rider’s fitness. In some instances, Boyer’s current results are nearly the same as they were 20 years ago. His current V02 max, for example, is 77; It was 81 when he was 25 and his physicians say he has the physical attributes of an endurance athlete in his late 20s.

Both physicians, of course, also know Boyer’s life circumstance. Heiden and Testa both have young children and both invite Boyer to stay in their respective homes during his regular visits to Sacramento.

“It’s a hard subject to address,” said Heiden. “Here’s a guy who I consider one of my best friends. He has been found guilty of something I find revolting. Sexual misconduct with a young kid, that effects people forever. It’s even hard to accept when someone has done their time that they’ve paid their dues. But like I’ve known Jock for a long time and when I think about it, I still kind of shutter.

“But I tell you, Jock has been to my house since all of this has happened and I feel comfortable with him being around my kids, so for me it’s a very unusual position to be in. You’ve got someone who’s a very good friend and someone who you trust and yet he stepped over the line for doing things I don’t find acceptable. But he’s a very good friend and I wrestle with this all the time.”

Testa, who came to the United States in 2001 to help establish the UC-Davis Sports Performance Program, concurred.

“We have spent a lot time bike riding together and spent a lot of time together socially,” Testa said. “When I first heard the story, I thought it was impossible. This could not be the Jonathan I knew for 20 years. In my mind’s eye, I still see him the same way as before. I was upset, but the guy is is still the same.

“Well, Jonathan is a little more reserved now; he’s more serious about things. So there are some changes. But I don’t see any changes in him when he’s around my family. I say if you are going to judge him, look at him as a cyclist and as a person and what he’s doing now for Team Donate Life.”

Skilbeck agreed. “From what we have learned, the most significant and enduring actions in Jock Boyer’s life have been his cycling achievements. We welcome Jock back to the Race Across America as a great cyclist, one with the potential to put the Race Across America crown back on an American head.”

Beginning last January, Testa, whose clients also include Levi Leipheimer of Santa Rosa, Calif., a top contender in this year’s Tour de France, established a training program for Boyer.

In addition to following an organic diet, Boyer has averaged no fewer than 350-400 miles per week and ridden as much as 600-mile weeks. He’s competed in local events and participated in high altitude and hot climate races in New Mexico and Arizona.

The solo divisions of the 25th anniversary RAAM will begin at 9 a.m. in Oceanside and progress 3,043 miles to Atlantic City, N.J.

The riders will pass through 57 checkpoints, ascend more than 108,000 feet and traverse 15 states. They will also encounter elevations from 170 feet below sea level in Mecca, Calif., to 10,550 feet above sea level in Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado.

Boyer will compete with an expected dozen others in the new Enduro Division. The division requires entrants to not ride their bikes for an average of four hours per day. The traditional solo division that doesn’t have the same rest restriction will also feature about a dozen contestants.

The new division was created, according to the race’s Web site, “to focus the contest more on cycling speed and less on the ability to survive on minimal sleep.”

Two riders, one in 2003 and the other last year, have been killed in vehicular accidents during RAAM.

Boyer, who recalls sleeping about 27 hours during his RAAM victory, will be supported by a multi-person crew and two team support vehicles.

Depending on a rider’s finish and bonuses for course records, a cyclist could earn as much as $25,000 for winning RAAM as a solo rider. If Boyer were to win that amount, it would approximately equal his team’s expenses. Boyer plans to donate any winnings to the charity.

“In my life, from a couple of years ago and from now on, I really want to impact people positively,” said Boyer. “I will go out of my way to do positive things for people. I’m very conscious of what I’m doing and how I impact people.

“I’m not perfect. I certainly can’t erase the past. But I will go forward in a positive and good way, to the best of my ability.”

Phil Liggett: The Voice of Cycling

(Phil Liggett, a co-author with Sammarye Lewis and me of Tour de France For Dummies, will be broadcasting his 34th Tour de France, beginning July 1 in Strasbourg, France.)


Phil Liggett had just arrived from an overseas journey, and he appeared to be in trouble. With a notebook in hand and his eyes focused on a finish-line clock, the British broadcaster and journalist was trying to take notes on a windy, rainy day in Wilmington, Del.

Liggett has withstood worse days. This occasion, however, the opening day of the now-defunct Tour DuPont 10 years ago, was pertinent for two reasons.

The nasty day represented a perfect day in Belgium, a cycling hub. And it showcased Liggett at his best.

From the Tour de France to the Tour of Tasmania, the Tour of Texas to the Tour of Italy, Liggett has been there.

For nearly 40 years, and sometimes for no apparent reason, he’s taken meticulous notes in wet notebooks on horrid days and while using uncooperative pens.

“I don’t have great faith in computers for everything,” said Liggett, who rarely uses his notations. “I don’t necessarily keep these notes after a year or so, I just let them drift away or they go into a corner of the room.

“But by writing these things down, it lodges in my mind. I have a photographic memory and I’m very proud of it. I can look at the camera and give you a complete report on the race.”

Liggett, 61, is the voice of cycling. He logs more than 200,000 air miles and spends more than 250 days per year on the road following the circuit.

Last summer, while working for four broadcasting networks, one newspaper and one web site, Liggett completed his 33nd Tour de France.

“People say, ‘You must be crazy looking at the same race every year,’ ” said Liggett. “But it’s not the same race. This was one of the best Tours I’ve worked on. It’s been great to write about and report on. There was a story everyday. I never got tired. I mean there are other things I’d like to do, but I have no thoughts of retirement.”

Following an amateur cycling career, Liggett began his print journalism career in 1967 with Britain’s Cycling Magazine (now Cycling Weekly). He opted for freelance reporting in 1971. One day when a broadcasting friend became ill, Liggett was asked to be a last-minute replacement.

Much has occurred since. Liggett’s NBC coverage of ski jumping at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway, for example, earned him “best announcer” honors from The New York Times. He’s broadcast the Hawaiian Ironman to various other endurance events. But he’s largely known for his cycling broadcasts.

Liggett also remains loyal to print journalism. He writes Tour de France and other cycling articles for the Daily Telegraph in London, and he’s written five cycling books.

For the past 20 years, Paul Sherwen has been Liggett’s traveling and broadcast partner. A seven-time Tour de France participant, Sherwen, 48, provides co-broadcasting and analysis for Liggett to U.S. audiences on the Outdoor Life Network (OLN).

In recent years, as Lance Armstrong has added to his now six-year victory streak at the Tour de France, OLN’s and the broadcasting duo’s popularity has rapidly increased.

While attending the USPRO Championship in Philadelphia in 2003, Liggett noticed several fans’ signs that read: “Don’t Retire, Phil.”

Liggett has no such plans. Because of his lengthy tenure, however, rumors have begun.

The Sherwen-Liggett tandem works in a folksy style. They can be critical of races, cyclists and organizers, but they also don’t hide their fondness for the cycling and favorite competitors. They’re also prone to picking up on nuances in races before they occur.

During the Tour de France in recent years, Liggett worked for OLN as well as networks in Britain, South Africa and Australia. He voiced over the Tour’s internal international broadcast.

“For the average person, they turn on the television and see the bunch going along hour after hour,” Liggett explained. “They say, ‘Hey, that’s great. But what the hell is going on?’ But if you take them into the pack and pick up on a couple of riders and explain how the teams are trying to position themselves for a finish . . . well, then you really get them hooked on the sport.”

Best friends away from work, Liggett and Sherwen and their respective wives vacation together. The broadcasting duo and several current and former cyclists are partners in a gold mine in Uganda. Both also share an interest in wildlife; Liggett is an expert ornithologist.

“We’re always driving down the motorway and I will say, ‘that’s a black-tailed kite,’ ” said Liggett. “We’re always looking for them. I recognize most of the birds in Europe and in South Africa because I go there a lot. I’m rusty in America. I take a bird book, Audubon, with me there.”

Liggett is also humble. Sherwen once took his broadcast partner on a Kenyan safari. Liggett identified 146 bird species during the journey. He logged each variety in a notebook and then onto a laptop computer program.

“Every year I say I’m going to do less,” Liggett said. “But it hasn’t worked; this has been my busiest year. It’s ridiculous. I dread to think about this year. I haven’t been home. Well, I’ve been home. But it will be about the same time on the road this year, about 270-275 days.”

Stretching: It’s For Cyclists, Too By BRAD WALKER

Stretching is a simple and effective activity that involves placing a particular part of your body in a position that will lengthen the muscles and tendons.

This simple technique will help to enhance your athletic performance, decreases the likelihood of muscle and joint injury and minimize muscle soreness.

Unfortunately, stretching is one area of cycling training that’s often neglected.

Stretching is a vital part of any exercise program and should be looked upon as being as important as any other part of your training.

Upon undertaking a regular stretching program a number of changes occur within your body. As a result of increasing the length of your muscles and tendons, a reduction in general muscle tension is achieved and your normal range of movement is increased.

By extending your normal range of movement you’ll gain a greater ability to move freely and ultimately increase your comfort level while on your bike.

Increasing your range of movement will also mean a lessening of your susceptibility to muscle and tendon strain injuries. By increasing your range of movement you’re increasing the distance your limbs can move before damage occurs to the muscles and tendons.

For example, the large muscles in the front of your thigh (the quadriceps) do a huge amount of work while you’re on the bike. It is not uncommon for these muscles to become tight, which in turn can place a large strain on your knees and result in knee pain.

A few simple quadriceps stretches both before and after your ride will help to loosen these muscles and reduce the strain on your knees.

There is a dangerous stretching myth that says, “If you stretch too much you will lose both joint stability and muscle power.”

This is untrue. By increasing the length of your muscles and tendons, you are increasing the distance over which your muscles are able to contract.

This results in a potential increase to your muscles’ power and therefore increases your cycling ability, while also leading to an improvement in dynamic balance (the ability to control your muscles).

We have all experienced what happens when you go for a long ride or to the gym for the first time in a few months.

The following day your muscles are tight, sore, stiff and it’s usually hard to even walk down a flight of stairs.

This soreness that accompanies strenuous physical activity is often referred to as post exercise muscle soreness, and is the result of micro tears, (minute tears within the muscle fibres), blood pooling and accumulated waste products, such as lactic acid.

Stretching, as part of an effective cool-down, helps to alleviate this soreness by lengthening the individual muscle fibres; increasing blood circulation; and removing waste products.

Fatigue is a major problem for all cyclists and results in a decrease in both physical and mental performance.

Increased flexibility through stretching can help prevent the effects of fatigue by taking pressure off the working muscles.

For every muscle in the body has an opposite or opposing muscle and if the opposing muscles are more flexible, the working muscles do not have to exert as much force against the opposing muscles.

Therefore, each movement of the working muscles actually takes less effort.

Also, by reducing fatigue through improved flexibility, you’re able to reduce the effects of overuse injuries so common among cyclists.

Floyd Landis: The Rise And Crash Of A Tour de France Champion


. . . (The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland has ruled against dethroned 2006 Tour de France champion Floyd Landis’ to bid overturn his two-year US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) ban and clear his name.

Landis will have to serve the full two-year suspension retroactive to Jan. 30, 2007, the date when he declared voluntary non-competition status. Landis was ordered to pay $100,000 in costs to the USADA.) . . .

And so nearly two years after one of cycling’s darkest moments, Floyd Landis has lost his arbitration appeal to keep his 2006 Tour de France title.

In the best of worlds, reporters are supposed to remain objective, but that’s not a reality. And when a decision like this goes against a nice guy, it’s more difficult to understand.

France ChampionIf you interview an athlete for several years, like I’ve done with cyclists and golfers (and years ago with NBA players), you develop opinions. Some guys (and women) you like, others you don’t.

Not too many reporters, as far as I know, like Barry Bonds. I’ve never interviewed him, but if half of what others have said is true, and after observing him for years, if Bonds is ever found guilty I’d revel in it. The guy’s no good, and whatever he’d get, he’d deserve.

But when nice guys cheat or they’re accused of cheating, it’s not the same. You meet Floyd Landis, you meet Tyler Hamilton and they both look you in the eyes. They’re humble. You respect how they train, how they conduct themselves, how they treat others. They epitomize sportsmanship, and you like them.

And like Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong, Hamilton and Landis had good stories to tell and great skills to show. Like no others, the American foursome all helped endurance sports transition into the media mainstream.

It’s a world full of sports editors and reporters who used to play football, basketball or baseball and who perhaps thought maybe they’d make it into “The Show” if it weren’t for a bad break. Still, some get endurance sports, others don’t. And so the easiest thing for those who don’t get it, is to dismiss sports like cycling and provide only obligatory coverage.

Remember, for example, when loudmouth columnist Skip Bayless said cycling isn’t a sport? The guy’s never been to the Tour de France, but he sure had something to say about it.

It’s part of the same reason boxing and horse racing, both ripe with corruption, still get covered as if nothing’s wrong.

But forget walk-off home runs, clutch putts and game-winning jump shots. They’re all OK. But watch a guy leave the peloton and ride up a mountain in rarefied air high into the Alps or Pyrenees and then you’ve seen something.

France ChampionI can’t help but like it. I’ve seen hundred of race finishes, and when a rider crosses the line first and displays his own unique style of emotion — sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly — it’s great stuff. I look for it in every race I attend.

Several years ago now, when Tyler Hamilton (remember him?) tested positive, his legion of fans made buttons that read: “I Believe Tyler.”

It didn’t take long for slightly less innocent cycling observers to amend the phrase to “I Want To Believe Tyler.”

I wanted to believe Tyler, too. And I want to believe Floyd. Why would they cheat? How could they lie to their respective friends and families and to themselves?

It’s nothing new in sport or in life. People cheat for fame and money and who knows for what other reasons? Reporters cheat, cyclists cheat, and I suspect it’s well within the realm of possibility experts in French drug-testing labs cheat.

But if it’s Barry Bonds cheating, it’s one thing. If it’s a nice guy cheating, it’s not as easy to understand — at least not for me. But nice guys do bad things.

It’s been coming to this for a while. And now it’s a certainly. I still cover cycling and I like the athletes and the Tour de France. But I’ll never be able to view cycling the same way again.

Pro Cycling: It’s All About The Team, Really!

(This article originally appeared in the Miami Herald on July 21, 2002.)

BEZIERS, France – Cycling is not always understood as a team sport. But as Lance Armstrong continues his quest for a fourth straight Tour de France title, the two leading teams in the race have provided ideal examples of how the sport works.

In the 10th stage last Thursday, Armstrong regained the lead he held previously only after the prologue July 6.

Pro CyclingBut while he won the 11th stage and subsequently the 12th stage Friday, it was the remainder of his eight-rider U.S. Postal Service team that surrounded him. Whether it was on the flats or in the mountains, team’s collective job was to protect, support and provide drafting its team leader.

Most importantly is the team’s help as riders approached the various climbs toward the finish at La Mongie, high into the Pyrenees.

Simultaneously, the supporting members of the Spanish ONCE team surrounded the former race leader, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano — for as long as they could.

During a brief moment in stage 11 on the live European telecast of the event, the teams working for their respective leaders were shown in an superb aerial view.

The seven support ONE riders (one member the team dropped earlier in the race), rode nearly side-by-side with the eight team riders, known as domestiques (French for domestics), who surrounded Armstrong.

But when the riders reached the mountains, the teams’ non-climbers began to peel away.

In the instance of the U.S.P.S. team, it was Spanish rider Roberto Heras who remained and who guided Armstrong to the win, a victory Armstrong would have preferred to give to his teammate.

When Galdeano dropped off the pace as the riders progressed on the steepest part of the climb, Heras accelerated and Armstrong followed right behind.

“Heras started a rhythm that was very fast,” said Armstrong. “I was in no position to attack. I just followed Roberto to the finish. Heras sacrificed everything for the team and I am grateful.”

Beloki was often sandwiched between the two riders, and never took his turn at the front of the trio as the riders edged closer to the finish.

Armstrong didn’t need the stage win, since he had overtaken Galdeano’s race lead on the course. But there was a caveat. The winner of the stage earned 20 bonus seconds of time, while the runner-up earned 12 seconds and the third-place finisher received eight.

“We talked about giving the stage win to Roberto, but with the bonuses involved, you can’t take chances like that when you’re riding for the yellow jersey,” said Armstrong. “He was the strongest rider of the day, but you can lose the Tour de France sometime with proper etiquette.”

Despite Armstrong winning what would be the first of his two consecutive mountain stages, he did not celebrate overtly at the finish.

Instead, Armstrong just clenched his fist at his side, an acknowledgment of the win, but more a small gesture to show respect him teammate.

“I didn’t have the legs, really,” said Armstrong. “Heras was the strongest climber. I just followed his wheel.”

Such is the team strategy of stage racing.

In addition to Armstrong, the U.S.P.S. team includes Viatcheslav Ekimov, the Russian who is the reigning Olympic time trial gold medalist; George Hincapie, the Greenville,. S.C., resident who’s a one-day classic specialist, and specialist climbers like Heras and Hugo Victor Pena of Colombia and Floyd Landis, the 26-year-old Californian who’s riding in his first Tour.

While the riders have their own accomplishments, in the Tour de France, individuals’ goals are sacrificed to help the rider who’s highest in the team in the overall standing, or general classification.

Like other teams, the U.S.P.S. squad meets each morning to discuss the day’s strategy. Depending upon who’s feeling well or who’s suffering from sickness or recovering from a strong ride the previous day, the team will rotate its responsibilities.

Landis, for example, might be responsible for leading the group early in the mountains, then followed by Ekimov or Hincapie. The roles can also be reversed. Jose Luis Rubiera of Spain, Pena and Heras are usually saved for the most severe climbs – to assist Armstrong for as long as they can.

Most often in flat stages, team riders are assigned to finish just ahead or behind Armstrong, or to ride to his left or right as a wind breaker.

Whether Armstrong is victorious or the individual overall winner is someone else, the winner’s prize money $335,390, plus various individual stage win moneys and team stage earnings.

If Armstrong wins, he will continue his tradition of dividing his earnings among his teammates, but will not take his share.

Armstrong, of course, will make his money away from the competition, with his team contract, sponsorships and his various other business pursuits as a multiple winner of the Tour de France.