Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
By VeloNews Interactive, and wire services
Lance Armstrong dealt sharply with an off-the-bike rival and the press on Friday, chasing down Italian Filippo Simeoni’s attempt to join an early breakaway and chiding the media for only being interested in “part of the story.”
The 32-year-old U.S. Postal captain, who leads the race by more than four minutes and has won four stages, chased down the 32-year-old Domina Vacanze rider as he sought to join a break of six riders, hoping for a stage win.
Simeoni is a key witness in the pending trial of Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari, with whom Armstrong has worked in the past. He also has announced his intention to sue the American over a July 2003 article in the French newspaper Le Monde, in which the five-time Tour winner was quoted as saying that Simeoni had “lied” when he told investigators it was Ferrari who showed him (Simeoni) how to use the banned blood booster erythropoietin effectively.
Payback came on Friday’s18th stage of the Tour, when Simeoni, who was not a threat in the general classification – he sat 114th at 2:42:55 – tried to join the six-man break, and Armstrong followed him. The race leader’s marking him seemed more a personal matter than a professional concern.
“It surely had something to do with what has happened,” said Postal director Johan Bruyneel. “Nobody was expecting it, and it wasn’t planned, either.”
Spaniard Vicente Garcia-Acosta (Illes Baleares) spoke to Armstrong, asking him to do the breakaway a favor and leave them to fight for the stage victory. Armstrong accepted, but only if Simeoni left the break as well. The break then asked Simeoni to leave, according to Sebastien Joly (Crédit Agricole), and the Italian had no choice but to forget his victory ambitions, and drop back to wait for the bunch.
“When he let go, Lance had the kindness to do the same thing,” Joly said.
Simeoni vilified the race leader for his actions afterward.
“Armstrong today showed everyone the kind of champion he is,” Simeoni said. “If he’s truly a big champion, he doesn’t have to preoccupy himself with modest riders like me.”
As for Armstrong, he said: “I was protecting the interests of the peloton. The other riders were very thankful. When I came back I had a lot of people patting me on the back.
He added that the real problem lies with Simeoni and the press.
“I don’t want to make it a bigger story than it is,” Armstrong said. “The problem with journalism is that you guys don’t research the story. Simeoni – there is a long story there. All they want to write about is part of the story. All he wants to do is destroy cycling, destroy the sport that pays him.
“When I went back to the group I can’t say how many riders said, ‘Thank you very much’. They understand that it is their job, and they don’t want somebody from within destroying it.”