“It (the decision of the US Attorney’s office in Los Angeles to close the investigation into Lance Armstrong and the US Postal team) can only be a good thing as one would hope it would drop out of the headlines now. Nobody has proved anything against him. I’ve been relatively close to him and he’s always categorically told me to my face that he hasn’t taken drugs. I read all the stories, I read all the accusations and I read the links and potential possibilities, but at the end of the day there’s no evidence or proof so we’ve got to move on and we can’t live in the past.”
Liggett also questioned why WADA and USADA would want to take up the reins over any possible investigation into alleged doping on the US Postal team between 1999 and 2004.
“If WADA are going to continue to press then one must ask the question why because all they’re going to do is waste a lot of money and the guy has finished cycling, if they find him guilty what’s the point?”
Liggett has always been a strong supporter of Armstrong, and has commentated on all seven of the American’s Tour de France wins. However, while Ligggett admits that he has had his doubts over the American’s career, a one-on-one moment in private convinced him to believe Armstrong was clean.
“He told me in a private situation, when I wasn’t working as a journalist. I was sat in the bedroom some years ago, and I asked him point blank, ‘look Lance, the way I talked you up on television, I would have to back off and resign if you one day went positive’. And he looked at me and he said ‘man I’ve seen death in the face and I don’t take drugs.’ And that’s all he said. I have no reason to disbelieve him.”
“But I’ve been with him on his private jet when he’s been reading stuff on Cyclingnews and he’s gone, ‘god damn it look at what they’re saying about me again’ and he just passes his computer over to his friends.”
Phil Liggett, MBE (born 11 August 1943) is a British commentator and journalist who covers professional cycling. He is known the world over as the sport’s foremost commentator. He currently commentates on the Tour de France and bike races for NBC Sports, ITV and SBS. He is a former amateur cyclist and received a professional contract in 1967; instead of turning professional, he saw a future in sports journalism after writing articles in cycling magazines about races in which he participated. Liggett has reported on 13 Olympics and 40 (as of 2012) Tours de France, generally alongside former cyclist Paul Sherwen.
These quotes are from an interview in February 2012 following the the decision of the US Attorney’s office in Los Angeles to close the investigation into Lance Armstrong and the US Postal team.
From the NYT; full story HERE.
LIÈGE, Belgium — The Tour de France has every reason to be lackluster this year. Alberto Contador, professional cycling’s best rider, is serving a doping ban. Andy Schleck, a perennial contender, is sidelined with an injury. And the Olympic road race in late July, just days after the Tour’s end, has some competitors thinking about saving themselves for the one-day event.
But the 99th edition of cycling’s premier race may prove to be one of the most compelling in recent years, thanks to Bradley Wiggins of Britain and the defending champion, Cadel Evans of Australia.
As the Tour starts its nearly 2,173-mile journey Saturday, the yellow jersey spotlight is fixed firmly on Wiggins and Evans.
Wiggins, 32, is the favorite to stand atop the podium in Paris three weeks from now. With a lanky frame and modish sideburns that hark back to 1960s-era Britain, he looks as if he would be more at home in an Antonioni film than in a bike race.
The extra facial hair has not increased Wiggins’s drag coefficient this season. The Team Sky captain, Wiggins has had a torrid start to 2012, winning three of the five stage races he has entered, including a victory over a field that included Evans in the Critérium du Dauphiné in June.
“Bradley is in form and on the up,” the Team Sky sport director Sean Yates said. “He’s done so much in the last six months, and he’s the favorite for the Tour now.”
Though Wiggins has often made the shortlist of contenders in recent years, his Tour performances have proved inconsistent. A former Olympic champion track cyclist, he finished fourth in the 2009 Tour, his best result, before struggling to 24th place in 2010.
Last year, he adjusted his pre-Tour training regime with the help of Tim Kerrison, a former coach for the Australian national swimming team. But he failed to see the fruits of his labor in the Tour, breaking his collarbone during Stage 7 and abandoning the race.
Fully recovered, Wiggins has benefited from his increased fitness this season.
“With that improvement, and with race results, comes confidence, and there’s a snowball effect,” Yates said.
Wiggins’s chief challenger will be Evans, who last year became the first Australian to win the Tour.
Evans, the 35-year-old Team BMC Racing leader, has not enjoyed as much success leading to July as he did last year. A sinus infection forced his withdrawal from Amstel Gold, a one-day race in the Netherlands in April, and he returned to form only recently, finishing third at the Dauphiné.
For the notably private Evans, who has sought inner peace in past Tours by locking himself in hotel bathrooms with noise-canceling headphones, spending the spring under the radar has helped him prepare mentally for the title defense.
“In some ways, I suppose not having the best race results keeps people’s attention away from me and helps make my life a little easier,” he said in a teleconference last week.
The two riders are similarly matched. Their teams, among the highest-salaried in the Tour this year, have world-class support riders. And both Wiggins and Evans are excellent all-around riders, as comfortable in the mountains as in individual time trials, stages in which riders race one by one against the clock.
Last year, Evans won the race during the individual time trial in Grenoble, snatching yellow from the leader, Andy Schleck, with an inspired ride.
Time trials will play a bigger role in this Tour than in the recent past. In 2009 and 2010, there were two solo time trials; last year, just one. This year the course, which winds clockwise around France, features three individual time trials.
The defending champion, Cadel Evans, riding alongside a team car during a pre-Tour training session.
• Bradley Wiggins
Country: Great Britain
Last year’s finish: Withdrew after breaking collarbone during Stage 7
Wiggins, long Britain’s best yellow jersey hope, arrives at the Tour in the best form of his career. A former track cycling star — Wiggins was a gold medalist at the 2008 Olympic Games — he won three major stage races this spring, joining the cycling legends Eddy Merckx and Jacques Anquetil as the only riders in cycling history to win both the Paris-Nice race and the Critérium du Dauphiné, which Wiggins won last month. He’ll have support from his loaded Team Sky squad, which helped him best his rival Cadel Evans in the Dauphiné. Though he rode to a fourth-place finish in 2009, Wiggins has seen many of his Tours end ingloriously. In 2007, his Cofidis team quit the race en masse after a positive drug test by one of its riders, Cristian Moreni. Last year, Wiggins broke his collarbone during Stage 7 and was forced to abandon the race.
• Cadel Evans
Team: BMC Racing
Last year’s finish: Winner
Evans, the defending champion, has had a quieter lead-up to this year’s Tour than in seasons’ past. Beset by a sinus infection in April, he missed many of the month’s spring classics — a series of imposing one-day races held in Belgium and Holland — and had an undistinguished finish at the Tour de Romandie, which he won in 2011. Though he failed to win the Critérium du Dauphiné, Evans showed the pro circuit his form during a breakaway win in the race’s first stage. Like Wiggins, Evans is a strong climber as well as a savvy time-trialer, which will be of utmost importance on a course that features more than 100 kilometers of racing against the clock.
• Fränk Schleck
Last year’s finish: Third
Schleck won’t have his teammate and younger brother Andy, out with a fractured pelvis, in his quest for a repeat podium finish. Schleck, who led the 2008 Tour for three stages, has had an uneven season: he pulled out of May’s Giro d’Italia with a shoulder injury, then finished second in June’s Tour de Suisse. But he seems to be peaking at the right time and will benefit mentally from the absence of the team director Johan Bruyneel, who, along with Lance Armstrong, has been charged with running a doping conspiracy by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. Bruyneel and the Schleck brothers have reportedly had a tense relationship since the beginning of this season; in May, Bruyneel publicly questioned Fränk Schleck’s commitment to racing after the Giro abandon.
You may not care about or watch much cycling, but the Tour de France hit an all-time high on Stage 18 Thursday, one to rival any great sport achievement. On a day when the Tour finished at the highest point in it’s history and featured insane mountain climbs (the riders climbed more than 4,500m of vertical distance), a rider named Andy Schleck made history. With 60 km to go, he took off and torched the field. So dominant was his ride that nearly 90 other cyclists failed to finish in the time required, which was over 30 minuted slower than Schleck. Yes, he beat world-class competitors by over 30 minutes.
Here’s part of what the Guardian had to say. Read the entire story HERE.
On the highest finish in the history of the Tour de France, Andy Schleck ascended to the plateau of greatness. All previous doubts concerning the 26-year-old Luxembourg rider’s courage and judgment were dispelled by a majestic attack that vindicated his supporters, disarmed his critics and earned the gratitude of neutrals who had been waiting for the explosive gesture that would define the 98th edition of the race.
Coming home just over two minutes ahead of his nearest pursuer at the end of a 200km stage that started in the Italian Piedmont town of Pinerolo and included three climbs above 2,300 metres, Schleck reshaped the contest single-handed. Amid the peaks of the Hautes-Alpes the runner-up of 2009 and 2010 came within a mere 15 seconds of tearing the yellow jersey off the shoulders of the extraordinary Thomas Voeckler, whose finish in fifth came after yet another epic of resilience.
While Alberto Contador blew up and Samuel Sánchez faded away, Cadel Evans provided the other heroic performance of the day with a desperate chase of the younger Schleck, gritting his teeth and towing the yellow jersey group up the final climb to cut in half what had been, with 10km to go, a lead of four minutes. Without Evans’s unassisted effort, Schleck might well have opened up enough of a lead to take to Paris.
Watching the Tour de France, with hundreds of bike riders maintaining sustained speeds of around 30 miles per hour for, literally, hours and riding north of 100 miles a day over 21 stages covering 25 incredible days (pretty much the month of July), one has to wonder about the equipment.
Well, for $10,000, you too can ride like the pros. Carbon fiber frames on a bike like this one weigh less than TWO POUNDS, and total bike weights of just OVER TEN POUNDS make for racing on air. The paint job on the bike (thickness, amount covered) is carefully considered because of its weight and aerodynamic properties. And carbon fiber wheels and tires less than an inch wide inflated to 200 PSI. Amazing for a bicycle.
But once the guys saddle up, it is something to see as around 175 riders pedal inches apart as they circumnavigate around 1,500 miles of France. Mountain stages have inclines greater than 10%, and descendant speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour.
Learn more about bikes HERE and about the Tour HERE. And then grab your bike and ride. Or join us on Verses TV in HD as we follow along with Phil Liggett, the best sportscaster on the planet for any sport, period.