Just Call It the Tour De Lance: Armstrong Is Working on a Five-Peat-And the Hearts of France

By Starr, Mark | Newsweek, June 30, 2003 | Go to article overview

Just Call It the Tour De Lance: Armstrong Is Working on a Five-Peat-And the Hearts of France


Starr, Mark, Newsweek


Byline: Mark Starr

It is not the best of times to be an American in Paris. The dollar is down, you can't find a freedom fry anywhere in town and you might possibly encounter--incroyable!--a touch of Gallic rudeness. Witness the boorish treatment of Serena Williams by the Parisian crowd at the recent French Open. Now another superstar U.S. athlete is planning a trip to Paris next month--and, despite recent history, his welcome is more likely to resemble Lindbergh's than Williams's. But Lance Armstrong never permits himself to think too far down the road. "I need to concentrate on the task at hand, trying to win the Tour de France," Armstrong said in an e-mail interview with NEWSWEEK. "The success of our team in the prior four [Tours] has nothing to do with the next race."

But it has everything to do with his legacy. The Tour de France will be celebrating its 100th anniversary when the 23-day trek begins next week. If the race ends as expected, with Armstrong's taking a victory lap down the Champs-Elysees, he will join four European legends as five-time winners--including Spain's Miguel Indurain, the only one to win five years in a row. It would be the penultimate glory for Armstrong, who has made cycling's premier race his singular passion. "Lance is motivated by making the history books," says Chris Carmichael, his personal coach. "But he knows you can't start thinking about that sixth until you've won the fifth."

Armstrong is quick to recite the litany of things that could go wrong: illness, injury, equipment problems. (He made no mention of the added strain of recent marital problems; he and his wife, Kristen, reconciled in March after a brief separation.) "This race is so unforgiving," says Carmichael. "One bad day in the mountains can take it all away." But in past races Armstrong has had great days in the hills, where he has crushed rivals en route to victory. And this year's 2,109.55-mile course--with seven mountain stages, one more than in 2002--is decidedly to his liking. "If there's no crisis, everyone knows they'll have to go through Lance to win," says his coach. …

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