Lance Armstrong says he’s at peace after controversy

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And while Armstrong may be banned from cycling, it certainly hasn’t diminished his passion for competition.

Only now, these weekend races may have to suffice.

“It’s not so much about racing anymore for me,” Armstrong said. “For me, it’s more about staying fit and coming out here and enjoying one of the most beautiful parts of the world, on a beautiful day, on a very hard course. Some may say you’re a little sick to spend your free time doing stuff like this. I had a good time.”

So did Swirbul — beating his idol was the highlight of his burgeoning career.

Or so he thought. Then came this: Armstrong saying Swirbul was a rider to keep an eye on down the road. Swirbul beamed as he stood next to Armstrong.

Swirbul hardly had the heart to tell Armstrong that he won with only one gear — the rest going out early in the race.

“I’m so psyched right now,” said Swirbul, who turns 17 on Sept. 2. “I wanted to win this race so bad.”

How come?

“To beat the 7-time Tour champ,” he said, grinning.

To riders such as Swirbul, Armstrong will always be champion of those Tour de France titles, no matter what rulings are made.

“It’s just a bunch of bureaucrats causing trouble,” said Max Taam, who trains with Armstrong and finished third Saturday. “I think he’s just happy to move on and be out on his bike.”

Armstrong, who retired a year ago and turns 41 next month, said Thursday he would no longer challenge USADA and declined to exercise his last option by entering arbitration. He denied again that he took banned substances in his career, calling USADA’s investigation a “witch hunt” without any physical evidence.

USADA said its evidence came from more than a dozen witnesses “who agreed to testify and provide evidence about their firsthand experience and/or knowledge of the doping activity of those involved in the USPS conspiracy,” a reference to Armstrong’s former U.S. Postal Service cycling team.

The unidentified witnesses said they knew or had been told by Armstrong himself that he had “used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone” from before 1998 through 2005, and that he had previously used EPO, testosterone and Human Growth Hormone through 1996, USADA said. Armstrong also allegedly handed out doping products and encouraged banned methods — and used “blood manipulation including EPO or blood transfusions” during his 2009 comeback race on the Tour de France.

USADA chief executive Travis Tygart described the investigation as a battle against a “win-at-all-cost culture,” adding that the International Cycling Union was “bound to recognize our decision and impose it.”

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