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Armstrong responds to Merckx (from posts)

Armstrong responds to Merckx (from Haiku Shop
May 1, 2003 7:23 AM
Armstrong responds to Merckx

After Eddy Merckx's outburst in L'Equipe on Tuesday, where he heavily criticised Lance Armstrong's performance in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Armstrong has hit back in defence. The four-time Tour de France winner finished 20th in the race after a late attack failed. Significantly (for Eddy Merckx), the move involved Armstrong, Sanchez, Bartoli and Shefer chasing down and dropping Belgian favourite Axel Merckx, who happens to be Eddy's son. Eddy also criticised the US Postal-Berry Floor team's tactics during the race, and Armstrong's apparent overestimation of his abilities.

In response to the comments in L'Equipe, Armstrong told Cyclingnews, "I'm sorry Eddy feels this way but we must all remember a few things: One, he was clearly upset as it involved his son. I just hung up the phone with Axel and he was far from upset. Did he want to win L-B-L? Of course! But he knows that bike racing is bike racing and he was far from guaranteed a victory."

Armstrong was also disappointed at reading the comments in L'Equipe, rather than hearing them from Eddy directly. "Secondly, Eddy has said things like this about many past/current riders whether they are champions or not," he said. "I guess I'm just another in a long line. I still love and respect the man, but it's not my style to 'lash out' in the press. If I had feelings like this then the way to express them is 'man to man' or 'face to face'. No other options... especially when it involves close friends. And until now, I have not received a phone call from him expressing his concerns."

"As for my poor form? Well good, it will be a great Tour then. It will be close, I will suffer like hell, and probably lose. But, I will give it my best. That's all I'll promise. If victory goes to a better man then there will be no crying, whining, or excuses. Not from me at least."

(J's note: ROTFL!)

Finally, Armstrong wished to clarify his status as a favourite for Liège, which was (in part) bestowed on him by Eddy Merckx (See April 27 news). "I never even came close to insinuating that Liège was a 'sure' victory," said Armstrong. "I simply said I feel 'okay', it's a beautiful race, and we'll see how it goes. Let's not let the facts get in the way here."
thanks J for posting this!velocity
May 1, 2003 7:52 AM
I love that rather than escalate things in a war of words with Eddy, Lance takes the high road and handles the situation, well, like the champion he is.
Will LA ever crack?TNSquared
May 1, 2003 8:17 AM
On or off the bike, the guy simply maintains more composure than he should be able to. With all the crap he takes from time to time, it's amazing to me that he has never vented his spleen in the media. I know Robbie McEwen got under his skin a little bit, but he even took care of that on the bike (US Postal helping Zabel.)

LA is a model of coolheadedness.
Yes, since cancer...Dwayne Barry
May 1, 2003 8:25 AM
the "old" Armstrong, the cocky a**hole has rarely re-emerged. The exception being when he didn't take the high-road and started calling Pantani "elephantino" at press conferences, etc. after their little tour spat.

I forget which tape it is, a Ronde maybe from the mid-nineties, where he's being interviewed prior to the race, asked about his form, etc. and for no apparent reason he interjects a blatant insult into one of his responses about Jalabert. No class! This time his response shows all the class in the world.
eye of the beholdermohair_chair
May 1, 2003 8:50 AM
I was talking about Amstel Gold Liege-Bastongne-Liege with a friend of mine who doesn't really follow racing, but she knows the major players. I told her how Lance could have theoretically won either of these races because he was in the final selection, but it didn't work out. I described how he basically (and figuratively) threw up his hands and coasted to the line when he realized he couldn't win, and later said something like "I'm tired of second place. I have enough second places here."

I totally understood what Lance was saying. He is a ferocious competitor. He was only racing to win. He wasn't willing to settle for anything less. You don't get to the top level by settling for second place. It's not my style, but I can understand highly competitive people.

My friends response? "What a poor sport! What a baby!"

It's all in the eye of the beholder...
Excellent point.....historical perspectiveTNSquared
May 1, 2003 10:23 AM
Thanks, Dwayne. Those of us who've just come into cycling within the past 4-5 years may not have as full a perspective on Armstrong. (And I guess I just slept through the elephantino thing. With no OLN, 30 minutes at 2:00 a.m. is generally the only TDF coverage I see.)

Never understood much of the criticism before, but if the "old" Armstrong was a cocky a**hole, then that might explain some of the flack he still catches from certain camps.

Still, he puts up with alot - probably alot more now as a 4 time TDF winner than back when he may have been more of a jerk but not as hugely successful. He doesn't just take the barbs, but stupid questions and misquotes as well, like the whole "I ride for a sponsor" (of the war) issue.

He has some personality flaws like any of us, I'm sure, but it sounds like he has reflected and matured alot. He's still a pretty cool customer in my book.
Re-read what Lance saidGalibier
May 1, 2003 8:36 AM
I'm not sure you can say Lance "took the high road." After all, he did accuse Merckx of "saying things like this about many riders," and of not expressing himself in a "manly" way. He also claims he wouldn't "lash out" in the press when in fact that is exactly what he did. The "high road" would have been simply to say something like "I'm disappointed in what Merckx said," and leave it at that.
High roads are relative -- as all of us cyclists knowvelocity
May 1, 2003 9:05 AM
I still think Lance handled the situation well. To me, his comments are strategic and humble, and have mostly defused the situation. Eddy, though, seems to have used the L-B-L results as an opportunity to remind everyone that he won Classics AND Tours. I think Eddy was not only defending his son but his own legacy -- which, of course, is incredible. Eddy's saying basically that Lance may be about to enter an elite club of 5-time TdF winners (of which I am a proud member) but he still hasn't won La Doyenne and, if I'm not mistaken, a WC spring classic is still missing from his palmares.