11 December 2004

Armstrong Leaves Tour Question Open

"Relaxed" Armstrong to Decide in May

According to Austin, Texas newspaper the Austin American-Statesman, Lance Armstrong will decide whether he will participate in the next Tour de France only two months before the season's main event, in May 2005. Armstrong, who was in Austin for a week-long training camp with his Discovery Channel/US Postal teammates, told the newspaper that he intended to pursue his cycling career for another two years before retiring.

Armstrong was relaxed at the start of the camp, telling the newspaper's Suzanne Halliburton, "I've got a clear head. I'm chilled out. I'm relaxed. I feel better than I have at other December camps."

While this camp did involve plenty of riding, it was mostly about team bonding, being held on Armstrong's home turf in Texas. "This camp usually is for the new guys to meet Lance," said Postal team manager Johan Bruyneel. "The January camp is a better standard for how much work needs to be done."

In the past, Armstrong has played down the pressure of expectations on him in 2003, when he equalled the record of five Tour de france wins, and in 2004, when he won a historic sixth victory. But he's now admitting that last january, he was feeling the strain. "Last year, I was really preoccupied with all that talk," Armstrong said. "I was going for the record, something that had never been done before. And boy, there were times when I was starting to believe the stuff people were saying."

So is Armstrong going to go for number seven? He won't decide till May, and directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel isn't saying either. "We're going to do it a little differently this season," Bruyneel said. "It's best if Lance rolls into the season and see how it goes, then see how well he's motivated. I know he's very relaxed."

After a two-week training session starting January 11, 2005 in Solvang, California, Discovery Channel team management and Armstrong will decide which Spring Classics the team captain will ride. While his participation at Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège is likely, the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and Flèche Wallonne could also be part of his early season racing calendar. After six weeks of racing between March and April, the 32 year-old will return to the States to decide on his programme for the high season 2005.


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