Armstrong cites 'respect' for Zabriskie

Updated: July 6, 2005, 1:36 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

CHAMBORD, France -- Lance Armstrong didn't want to wear the leader's yellow jersey in the Tour de France on Wednesday -- until race officials asked him to reconsider.

The 33-year-old American set off in his Discovery Channel uniform as the cyclists began a pre-race ride, but race officials stopped everybody before the starting line and asked him to wear it.

The six-time Tour winner started the day opting not to wear the leader's yellow jersey, citing "respect" for Zabriskie.

"There was no problem, just a little confusion in the beginning, having not started in the jersey," Armstrong said. "I didn't feel that it was right to start in the jersey."

Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc got strict about the rule book, which states that the overall race leader "must wear" the yellow jersey.

"There was no negotiation," Armstrong said. "Jean-Marie said: 'You don't start in the jersey, and you don't start tomorrow."'

Before the stage, Armstrong wanted to follow an unofficial tradition by not donning the jersey.

"In light of the tradition of the last 30 or 40 years, no one really takes it if there is a crash" involving the race leader, he said. "We decided to leave it empty today."

In the past, Eddy Merckx and Greg LeMond both refused to wear the yellow jersey after the previous holder -- Spain's Luis Ocana and Dane Rolf Sorensen respectively -- had crashed.

Zabriskie was touched by Armstrong's wish to not to wear the yellow jersey as a sign of respect for his unlucky compatriot.

"That was a nice gesture," Zabriskie said.

"When he told me I said 'I hope they don't kick you out of the race' and just after that they told him he had to put it on. He wore it but I appreciate what he did."

Zabriskie needed stitches to close a gash on his right arm, but X-rays on his right knee, elbow and wrist showed no broken bones, CSC team spokesman Brian Nygaard said.

Before the fourth stage Tuesday, Zabriskie led Armstrong by 2 seconds in the standings. Discovery's team director, Johan Bruyneel, said Zabriskie was unlucky with the crash, and his riders weren't going to take advantage.

"It would have been likely that Zabriskie would have kept the jersey," Bruyneel said. "You don't take the jersey from somebody who has crashed out."

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