PARIS – Lance Armstrong didn’t want to go out this way.
In his final Tour de France, the seven-time champion popped a tire, crashed and struggled up the mountains. Worse, he appears to be the target of a U.S. federal investigation into doping and fraud allegations while a rider on the US Postal team.
One Tour too many? Maybe.
Still, he maintained he had no regrets despite the ignominious ending of No. 13 – nearly 40 minutes behind the leader, former teammate and rival Alberto Contador.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s ruined,” he said during an interview with a few reporters Sunday. “In 10 years, when I look back on the 2010 Tour, it won’t be the memory that I have.
“Obviously, I won’t have a yellow jersey to remember – I’ll remember the team, digging deep to win the team GC (general classification),” he said. “It’s significant for us and the sponsor.
“I’ll remember having my son here for a week at the Tour,” he said, referring to 10-year-old Luke. “I’ll remember the bad luck, certainly – the crashes. But that won’t be the thing that I’ll take away.”
During the race, there were numerous published reports of a federal investigation led by Jeff Novitzky, a special agent with the Food and Drug Administration, into claims about Armstrong and doping by former teammate Floyd Landis.
Several former riders who race with Armstrong have reportedly been subpoenaed. Armstrong faced questions about those reports at the Tour. He said he had not been subpoenaed or contacted by Novitzky himself.
Armstrong’s long-masterful control of his image – cancer survivor, Tour champion, public personality and pitchman – may finally be escaping his grasp.
Last year, returning from a four-year retirement from the Tour, he finished an impressive third and got within one second of the yellow jersey.
This year, he was but a mere 23rd, and his best single showing was arguably in the prologue in Rotterdam, where he placed fourth.