- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Lance Armstrong’s mind is on Belgium in April, not Paris in July.

Armstrong remained uncommitted yesterday when asked whether he will try to win a seventh consecutive Tour de France, but he made it clear his focus this year will be winning some of the spring classic races that have always taken a back seat on his cycling calendar.

“It’s time to finally go and win one of the monuments of cycling,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong spoke as his Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team announced its 2005 race schedule in Silver Spring. The team’s 28 riders from 15 countries will start 11 days of training in California today, but it no longer has a laser-beam focus on winning the Tour de France above all else — as it has in years past.

“It’s definitely a departure, beginning the year not focusing on the tour,” said Armstrong, the only six-time winner of cycling’s most prestigious race.

Armstrong tentatively plans to race in four classics — three in Belgium and one in the Netherlands — before deciding in late April whether to skip the Tour de France, scheduled for July2-24.

“I’ll definitely be in France this summer,” Armstrong said. “It just might not be on the bike.”

Armstrong isn’t done with the Champs Elysees for good. When the Discovery Channel replaced the U.S. Postal Service as the team’s sponsor, it had Armstrong promise to race in at least one more Tour de France. Yesterday, he mentioned several reasons for waiting until 2006 to fulfill that obligation.

“Will it hurt to see somebody else sipping champagne?” Armstrong said. “I don’t know if it’ll hurt, but it might make me a little hungry. … I’ve read some stuff where the organizers say, ‘Well, maybe it’s good if he sits out a year and lets somebody else win and then he comes back and then there’s a rematch.’

“That does sound like a good idea, but that’s not going to be what makes the decision.”

Recently, Armstrong has pined for a chance to focus on some of the one-day races that are favorites among cycling fans. The four classics in his sights are the Tour of Flanders (April3), the Amstel Gold Race (April17), the Fleche Wallone (April 20) and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April24).

If he doesn’t ride the Tour de France, Armstrong said he likely will compete in either the Giro d’Italia (May7-29) or the Tour of Spain (Aug.27-Sept.18). He never has competed in the famed Giro.

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