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Tour Downplays Armstrong's Run

Highlight video of 2005 race barely shows the seven-time winner, who is fighting a French newspaper's allegations.

October 28, 2005|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

With seven-time defending champion Lance Armstrong safely, if angrily, retired, Tour de France officials announced the 2006 route Thursday at the Palais des Congres in Paris.

As part of the proceedings, a 10-minute highlight video of the 2005 race was shown. Barely shown was 34-year-old Armstrong, who has been fighting allegations reported in August by L'Equipe, a French sports newspaper, that there is proof Armstrong was using illegal blood-doping products when he won his first Tour in 1999.

Armstrong, who has never had a positive drug test, has vehemently denied he used blood-doping products. He even announced he was reconsidering his retirement because of his anger over the article before deciding he would not race again.

In interviews with reporters in Paris, Patrice Clerc, president of Amaury Sports Organization, which owns the Tour de France and L'Equipe, said it was no accident that Armstrong's presence was mostly excised from the 2005 video.

"The winner of the previous Tour was shown, but he wasn't highlighted," Clerc said. "In light of the situation from 1999, we felt that putting Armstrong in the spotlight was a course we couldn't take."

In what was called "An Open Letter from the Organizers of the Tour de France," which was also presented to those in attendance Thursday, deputy managing director Jean-Marie Leblanc and director of cycling Christian Prudhomme wrote:

"On the 24th of July we turned the page on a long, very long, chapter in the history of the Tour de France. And one month later, current events made it clear to us that it was just as well that this was so."

In other words, thank goodness Armstrong is gone.

Johan Bruyneel, director of Armstrong's Discovery Channel team, said Thursday on Armstrong's website, "It seems some have quickly forgotten what Lance and our team have done for the Tour over the past seven years."

He also said that he was not the only person disappointed in the day. "I could tell certain people in the crowd, other [team] directors, almost got up and left."

According to the cycling publication VeloNews, Frenchman Patrick Lefevere, manager of the Quick Step-Innergetic team, said of the Armstrong-light video, "It's hypocritical. Armstrong brought so much more international attention to cycling. I have a lot of strong feelings about this, so I better not say anything else."

The 2006 route will feature a return, after a year's absence, to L'Alpe d'Huez, the dramatic Alpine mountaintop that is reached only after climbing 21 switchbacks. The 2,237-mile race will begin July 1 in Strasbourg, includes nine flat stages, five mountain stages, two individual time trials, a mountain stage finish in Spain and some racing in Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland.

What it doesn't include is the team time trial, an event dominated by the U.S.-based teams the previous three years.

Armstrong was in New York on Thursday preparing to be host of "Saturday Night Live" and had no comment.

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