SILVER SPRING, Md. -- Lance Armstrong's mind is on Belgium
in April, not Paris in July.
Armstrong remained uncommitted Monday when asked whether he will try
to win a seventh consecutive Tour de France, but he made it clear
his focus this year will be winning some of the spring classic
races that have always taken a back seat on his cycling calendar.
"It's time to finally go and win one of the monuments of
cycling," Armstrong said.
Armstrong spoke as his Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
announced its 2005 race schedule. The 28 riders from 15
countries will start 11 days of training in California on Tuesday,
but the team no longer has a laser-beam focus on winning the Tour de
France above all else -- as it has in years past.
"It's definitely a departure, beginning the year not focusing
on the Tour," said Armstrong, the only six-time winner of
cycling's most prestigious race.
Armstrong tentatively plans to race in four classics -- three in
Belgium and one in the Netherlands -- before deciding in late April
whether to skip the Tour de France, scheduled for July 2-24.
"I'll definitely be in France this summer," Armstrong said.
"It just might not be on the bike."
Armstrong isn't done with the Champs-Elysees for good. When it
replaced the U.S. Postal Service as the team's sponsor, the
Discovery Channel had Armstrong promise to race in at least one
more Tour de France. On Monday, he mentioned several reasons for
waiting until 2006 to fulfill that obligation.
"Will it hurt to see somebody else sipping champagne?"
Armstrong said. "I don't know if it'll hurt, but it might make me
a little hungry. ... I've read some stuff where the organizers say,
'Well, maybe it's good if he sits out a year and lets somebody else
win and then he comes back and then there's a rematch.'
"That does sound like a good idea, but that's not going to be
what makes the decision."
Recently, Armstrong has pined for a chance to focus on some of
the one-day races that are favorites among cycling fans. The four
classics in his sights are the Tour of Flanders (April 3), the
Amstel Gold Race (April 17), the Fleche Wallone (April 20) and the
Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April 24). His only victory in any of those
four came at the Fleche Wallone in 1996, shortly before he was
diagnosed with testicular cancer.
If he doesn't ride the Tour de France, Armstrong said he likely will compete in either the Giro d'Italia (May 7-29) or the Tour
of Spain (Aug. 27-Sept. 18). He has never competed in the famed
Armstrong also would like to break the one-hour cycling record
held by Britain's Chris Boardman. Armstrong said he has an initial
version of the bike he would use, and he envisions building a
covered velodrome at altitude to make the attempt.
"It's something that fascinates me," he said.
Armstrong's team unveiled its new uniform, which includes a
yellow band at the end of the left sleeve, the latest sign of the
enormous popularity of the "Livestrong" yellow wristbands sold by
the Lance Armstrong Foundation to promote cancer survivorship
programs. Nearly 30 million of the bracelets have been sold.
Armstrong also said he was happy with a recent victory in his
ongoing libel case against The Sunday Times of London. A judge in
London's High Court said in a preliminary ruling last month that
the paper had wrongly repeated and had sensationalized allegations
that he took performance-enhancing drugs. The allegations first surfaced
in the book "L.A. Confidential, the Secrets of Lance Armstrong."
"We're just now beginning to prove that right," Armstrong
said. "We're very happy with the judge's decision. The process
carries on. It's not a final, final victory."