As temperatures rise, Armstrong fumes

Doping talk from LeMond, media irks 5-time champ

Tour De France

July 16, 2004|By Diane Pucin | Diane Pucin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

FIGEAC, France - As far as the race goes, Lance Armstrong is confident.

As far as the drug talk goes, Armstrong is spitting mad.

On a day when the temperature climbed to near 100 degrees by the end of the Tour de France's 11th stage, a furious Armstrong, trying to become the first man to win the race six times in a row, accused a French television journalist of stalking his hotel room and wearily shook his head at harsh words from Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour.

Already feeling assailed after being tapped for a drug test Wednesday, Armstrong said he was even more upset at the sight of France 3 TV investigative reporter Hugues Huet at the U.S. Postal team hotel yesterday.

"They show up at the press conference and ask sporting questions to our face, but as soon as we leave, they're looking, digging in the rooms, looking for dirt," Armstrong said.

"The scary thing is that if they don't find anything and they get frustrated after a couple of months, well, who's to say they don't put something there and film it and say, `Look what we've found.'"

A France 3 spokesman said the crew had gone to the hotel only to interview U.S. Postal trainers and assistants to assess the physical state of Armstrong and his teammates before the start of mountain climbing.

Also yesterday, an article in the French newspaper Le Monde quoted LeMond as strongly criticizing Armstrong's denials of drug use.

"The problem with Lance is that you're either a liar or you're out to destroy cycling," LeMond was quoted in the French paper. "Lance is ready to do anything to keep his secret, but I don't know how long he can."

When it came to the race, Armstrong said he was content with his position - in sixth place, more than 9 minutes behind overall leader Thomas Voeckler of France but at least 47 seconds ahead of his strongest rivals.

While he said the heat left him and his teammates "tired and really cooked" by the end of the stage - won by Frenchman David Moncoutie - Armstrong also said he was looking forward both to today's stage - a 122.5-mile ride that ends with an eight-mile climb to the finish - and even more to tomorrow's 13th stage that finishes in the mountains at Plateau de Beille.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Tour at a glance

Yesterday: A relatively short ride from Saint-Flour to Figeac over 102 miles of hilly roads with one notable climb.

Winner: Cofidis rider David Moncoutie in 3 hours, 54 minutes, 58 seconds.

How others fared: Five-time winner Lance Armstrong placed ninth, 5:58 behind. Main rival Jan Ullrich, the 1997 champion, placed 13th in the same time.

Yellow jersey: Thomas Voeckler of Brioches La Boulangere keeps the lead. Today: Riders enter the daunting Pyrenees in the 12th stage, with a 122.5-mile ride from Castelsarrasin to La Mongie.

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