Tour-Bettini eyes gold in Athens, not Tour glory

Updated: July 18, 2004, 3:14 PM ET

By Stephen Farrand

NIMES, France, July 18 - While Lance Armstrong continues his quest for a record sixth Tour de France title, Italy's Paolo Bettini has set his sights on Olympic gold.

Bettini, currently ranked number three in the cycling world rankings, knows he cannot compete with the main Tour contenders in the mountains or time trials.

Instead he is using the three-week race to prepare for the Olympic road race in Athens on August 14.

"I'm not here to win the Tour but to work hard to peak at 110 percent in mid-August," he told Reuters.

"The Tour is the biggest race in cycling but August will be the most important month of my season. Hopefully July and the Tour will be a stepping stone to a gold medal."

Bettini has gone on the attack several times to try and win a stage but has always come up empty handed.

After surviving the two mountain stages in the Pyrenees he is 75th overall, one hour and five minutes behind current leader Thomas Voeckler of France.

With the Alps to come, he will be riding well within his limits, anxious not to damage his chances in Athens.

"In the last week of the Tour I've got to look after myself so that I come out of the three weeks in good shape ready for the Olympics," he said.

"If I have a bad day I know I have to back off and finish in the pack and if things get really bad I'll even quit the Tour so that I don't push myself too far.

"The Tour's yellow jersey is Lance's thing, I'd prefer to have an Olympic Gold medal."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index