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"Armstrong Hopes for Clean Tour"
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Armstrong Hopes for Clean Tour
By MICHAEL McDONOUGH, Associated Press Writer
PARIS (AP) - Lance Armstrong knows this year's Tour de France
will be tough. He just hopes it will be clean, too.
On Saturday, the 30-year-old Texan launches his bid for a third
consecutive title in the world's toughest cycling race at a time
when doping has once again cast a shadow over the sport.
"We hope for a clean sport, we hope for a clean race,"
Armstrong said. "We don't want another episode like the Giro."
The Tour de France starts just over a month since the Giro
d'Italia was subjected to a police raid of team hotels. More than
60 riders were reportedly placed under investigation as a result of
the late-night blitz.
Now the spotlight is on the Tour de France, whose image is still
recovering from the 1998 edition when teams were kicked out after
admitting to widespread drug use.
Despite efforts by Tour organizers to rid the sport of drugs,
Armstrong wasn't ruling out the possibility of a fresh doping
"I can't be the guy to sit up here and tell you that it's going
be absolutely clean," said Armstrong, who rides for the U.S.
Postal Service. "I can tell you that in our organization, we have
standards that we set."
The Societe du Tour de France, which runs the event, will test
more riders this year and will use a newly validated urine test
capable of detecting the performance-enhancer EPO. The 189 riders
taking part in the Tour underwent blood and urine tests Thursday in
Dunkirk, in northern France, where the three-week race begins.
"All of the measures are in place," Armstrong said. "Is
somebody going to take the risk? Maybe. Are they stupid if they do
Armstrong heads into the Tour as the new No. 1 rider in the
world, a ranking he obtained with last week's victory in the Tour
His performance in the Swiss Alps, including an uphill
time-trial ending in Crans Montana, provided further evidence that
Armstrong is the clear favorite to win this year's 20-stage Tour de
But he says he's not convinced.
"I disagree that I'm the overwhelming favorite," Armstrong
said. "I think there are a lot of guys that are just as strong as
Armstrong is aiming to become only the second American - after
Greg LeMond - to win the Tour three times, and the first to do it
three years in a row.
The Texan stunned the world with his first Tour victory, which
marked a comeback from advanced testicular cancer. Given less than
a 40 percent chance of survival, he underwent brain surgery and
chemotherapy and had a testicle removed.
Doubters who believed his 1999 win was a mere fluke were
silenced when he won the event again the following year.
Now Armstrong is more than ever the man to beat, and 2000
runner-up Jan Ullrich is the first to admit it.
"I assume he will be even better this year than last year,"
said Ullrich, the 1997 champion who won Olympic gold in Sydney.
However, the German rider finished 52nd in the Giro and has a
history of weight and fitness problems.
"Jan Ullrich is a fantastic rider," Armstrong said. "He's
strong, he's talented. I think he's in shape. He's a favorite."
The Team Telekom cyclist is confident of his chances in what he
sees as probably his last opportunity to win the Tour.
"I've noticed that my form is at the point where I'm ready to
go," Ullrich said. "If it doesn't work out this time, then it
probably won't ever."
Lesser known riders who have a chance of pulling an upset
include Spaniard Joseba Beloki, who placed third last year, and
France's Christophe Moreau. Italian Francesco Casagrande is also
described by Armstrong as a "favorite."
Whoever wins will have to get the better of more than 2,100
miles of French and Belgian countryside, including seven mountain
stages reaching to 6,100 feet. Five stages, including one
individual time-trial, feature uphill finishes. The grueling event
ends July 29 with the traditional ride down the Champs-Elysees in
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