Monday, July 16, 2007

Interview in Vélo 101 - part 2

First of all, Greg finished l'Etape du Tour, in 8'44'' (701st out of about 7000). Congratulations!

The second part of the interview Greg and Geoffrey LeMond gave to Velo 101 is out.

They both have some quite harsh words about Armstrong.
(once again, this is my translation...far from perfect, my apologies...)

Geoffrey asked about what he thinks of Lance Armstrong:
[G. thinks for a long time] I'm not sure what to say. For 8 or 9 years, or even in 1993, I was close to Armstrong. He had had hard words against my father. I was a kid, he was criticizing my dad. I saw him again in 2000 in New York. And after that, my dad talked about his (Armstrong) relationship with Ferrari, and all went for the worst. He did a lot of things to discredit my dad. It was actions of a guilty guy, trying to justify himself. He made the life in my family a lot harder than it should have been. Therefore I'm mad at him. He is simply a liar and a cheat.

For you Greg?
I'm glad that Lance is out of cycling. As an American, I was sincerely happy to see him win the Tour, eventhough we didn't have the best of relationships. I went through a hard period during my career, when I had to fight for two years to come back, so when he won in 1999, I found that great. After that I heard about his relationship with Dr.Ferrari, and I had the dream that after the affair Festina, things were going to change, the peloton was going to ride slower, people were going to start speaking out. In 1999 I heard from a mecanician from the Festina Team what was still going on. For me, it's really hard to appreciate cycling when you don't know anymore who is the best. That's the problem of those past 15 years: who was the best? For me it was Jan Ulrich, who had more talent than the others. In 2000 I heard from mecanicians from the US Postal what was going on. After that it became hard to watch the Tour.

No suffering... There was no suffering. I climbed the Ventoux yesterday, which the pros are doing too...

When in 2000 you see Armstrong talking in his earphone when he drops Pantani while climbing the Ventoux, it's not normal, it's nuts! I didn't want to criticize an american cyclist, I found that bad, but I couldn't accept that after Festina, Armstrong was seeing someone like Ferrari, for the image of the sport. It's the wrong message. If you want to carry the right message, to show you're against doping, you don't see Ferrari. I only stated that I was disappointed that he was seeing Ferrari. Five or six days later, he called me and instead of asking why I said that, he only told me that I couldn't have won the Tour de France without EPO. I said it wasn't true, but he insisted on 1989. I told him "in 1989, I didn't even know EPO, and if I had been the first to use it, I wouldn't have won by 8 seconds, but by 8 minutes." Because we know now that at the end of the Tour, the difference in power can be 20 to 30% more with EPO. I told him that for my first Tour, I finished 3rd, at 23, then second and then first. My results were regular, aside from the hunting accident.

After that for six years he did all he could to break my relation with Trek. He is a guy who abuses of the system, even with his cancer, for his image, for his money. In my opinion, he's been protected by Verbruggen. In 2000 I heard that he gave $500,000 to UCI. In 1999 his urine is tested positive 6 times. In 2000 it's clear as the one of a baby. I don't think Armstrong is a mean guy, neither that he is a bad or a good person. But his way of saying "I train better than the others, I'm more motivated". The other riders are training as hard, but they don't have the same possibilities.

If you consider cycling for the past 30 or 40 years, since Merckx's years and before. People were training for 30,000 km, a hundred days a year. In 1990 I win the Tour after having suffered mononucleosis all winter long. I couldn't end a race. In april I was in bed and rode hardly one hour a day. And I came back in May, and was going up and down during the Giro d'Italia, then I was a lot better at the Tour of Switzerland and around the Tour, I was competitive. I won because I had a good team, good tactics. The secret of good training is to know how to work and rest, finding how you can stay fresh to reach your maximum at certain times. If you overtrain, you can also lose your strength and your sensations.

The body has some genetic capacities that training cannot change. You can't climb the Alpe d'Huez 20 times and then pretend that you can win the Tour because you did that. If your VO2max is 80, watts are there or not. In 1991 you see an increase in power outputs of 10-15% and then it just climbed more after. I was a pro for 14 years. The first year I was 3rd on the Dauphine Libere. I don't think I was any stronger 10 years later. I just had more experience to know how to reach my highest level with good timing.

That's why I'm mad at doping. I saw my team Z win the team classification in the Tour 1990, and in 1991 we couldn't follow anymore. In the Giro we were all dead after two weeks and I quit. Even on the Tour de France my teammates lost 10 minutes in the first mountain stage. We know now that your hematocrit naturally decreases of around 10% on the Tour, while with EPO it can climb by 20%. In the end of the Tour it makes a difference. We couldn't fight against that.

I saw a lot of cyclists quit like me around 32 years old, thinking "I quit, I'm too old." We were trying to find out why the peloton was riding so fast. My way has always been to try to stay in front of the peloton, but then, I couldn't do that, and I thought it was my age.

What is your hope for cycling? Are you watching the Tour 2007?

Greg: Since 2006 and the scandals I hope that things are going to change. Even with all this, cycling remains exciting. I think the Tour will survive, but it needs a true solution against doping, with a way of testing or putting down the hematocrits back to 44-45%, or you can't start the stage. Between the moment where the doctors are testing for hematocrits in the morning and the beginning of the stage, transfusions are possible, so cyclists should be isolated over that time, no contact with the team or team doctors. They get coffee, drinks. Then you test them for their hematocrit, bovine hemoglobin and testosterone. Then we will know, there won't be the bias that the hematocrit drops over the stage. It's one solution. For the public, and for the riders, all will be more comfortable, they won't think anymore that you need to take something to be at the top. If they trust in that, well trained riders will be more competitive.

Geoffrey: Yes, I'm watching, because I love cycling. But the fact that some people can go win the Tour thanks to doping, it's absurd, it's ruining it and its image for a lot of people. With more scandals coming out, people are getting fed up, but it's a necessary step. Landis is getting through this okay, there's no verdict yet, and that's not logical. Riis admitted he doped in 1996. In 1997 scandals are about Ulrich. 1998, it's Pantani, who died because of doping and from 1999 till now, people want us to believe that Armstrong lived with no doping. Beat everyone without PED's then, it's impossible. In 2006 the Tour champion is convicted of doping, he denies it. Landis was positive to testosterone, there's a mistake, he took other things, not only testosterones but maybe also things that can't be detected.

What's your feeling about the Landis affair?

Greg: For Armstrong I say that I am disappointed that he is seeing Ferrari, he calls me and with telling me I couldn't win in 1989 without EPO, he admits himself that he took some. Honestly, I'm disappointed, with all I knew from the mecanicians from US Postal, I couldn't support Armstrong. He threatened me, I spent a lot of money for lawyers to be able to keep my bike company, he almost made my life a nightmare. He is a guy who has power and abuses it.

For Landis, I don't understand a thing. I sponsorized his team in 2001, I spent four hours with him in the bus after the Fleche Wallonne, I met him at the team presentation. When it was learnt that he tested positive, I was doing a charity ride and I told the press that I was wondering, that I was hoping. I met his family at the Tour of Georgia. Nice people, I couldn't see a link between those people and doping. But he left his family when he was 15. Then he called me and asked why I said so. I said "you're not only a cyclist, you're the winner of the Tour de France, tested twice positive to testosterone. After the Puerto affair, cycling is down on its knee, so if you did it, for your own good and for the sake of cycling, you're the one who should speak out, say you cheated. That's the method."

Cycling needs that people speak out. I am in favor of reducing punishements for those who speak out, who give the names of doctors and managers, who will have to go away. Even a 6 months suspension only, with accepting that each day his blood is checked. It will be sure he's riding clean.

Even Bjarn Riis, or Jérôme Chiotti, who was badly treated after admitting he doped, those guys have to be recognized, put fowards, because they have to be helped, kept in the sport, to be examples for young riders. Everybody makes mistakes. At 25 years old you are easy to influence and impresse so it's easy to make mistakes. The system has to change, not the riders. Pantani was controlled with a hematocrit of 53% and was treated as a criminal, got depressed, took cocain and destroyed his health.

Last question: the Tour had a great success in London. Do you think it would be possible to see a start in United States?

Geoffrey: I don't think so. The history of the Tour de France comes from stages like L'Alpe d'Huez, Le Tourmalet. Europe is better for cycling. Definitely...

Greg: Why not? it'd be fantastic. Felix Levitan thought about it. But you need two or three days of rest to get over the jet lag. All the riders should arrive from Europe to not be advantaged. But it's possible and it'd be fantastic

1 comment:

Albert Pallas said...

Hi Claire,

I'm from Spain and I'm also a big fan of Greg. It's great that you have decided to start a blog about him...just let me know if you would like to share stuff you have about Greg :)

I would be delighted to cooperate on your blog, if you agree ;)

Best regards,