July 02, 2004
Saiz: 'Selfish' Armstrong has 80 percent chance in Tour
Manolo Saiz is the director of Liberty Seguros, and for years directed the powerhouse ONCE team that included at times Alex Zulle, Joseba Beloki, Laurent Jalabert, and Abraham Olano. This year, he'll try to put Roberto Heras on the podium's top spot, but he gives Armstrong an 80 percent chance of taking his sixth consecutive Tour.
That doesn't mean he's happy about it, however. Saiz is typical of many around the sport who think a "true champion" is one who beats all comers all year round. Their archetype is Eddy Merckx, the Belgian who did just that, but still won 5 Tours.
"As usual, [Armstrong] will pack a season's worth of racing into 23 days.
"Listen, I've got heaps of respect for Armstrong on a professional level. He's an authentic champion, and a great one at that. But he's always had a selfish approach to cycling. He's taken a lot from the sport, but he hasn't given much back in return."
So who's the best Tour rider ever?
"There's no comparison," he said, using Merckx as an example. "Merckx gave everything he had to the sport. The whole season. That's what separates the European idea of cycling from the American idea. It's not a judgment, just an opinion. But for all those reasons, that's why I hope he doesn't become the first rider to win the Tour six times."
And what about Roberto Heras, Armstrong's teammate in last year's Tour, now leading the Liberty Seguros team Saiz manages?
"[N]ow he's going to have to prove he's worthy of being the team leader, that he can attack and take the race by the scruff of the neck. I believe he has the ability, and I can see that he is concentrated and motivated. He has a solid team around him. It should be a great challenge."
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How many tours did Merckx win after beating cancer?
That's what I thought, Mr. Saiz.
Posted by: Steve at Jul 2, 2004 7:00:06 PM
Yes, Armstrong beat cancer, but I think Saiz's points are well taken. Hamilton finished second in the Giro with a broken collarbone and fourth in the Tour - Lance has made no secret that he thinks the Tour is everything, but it has diminished his standing in the cycling community.
Posted by: Thomas at Jul 3, 2004 1:53:15 AM
As Director of the Cancer Institute in Portland, Oregon, I am able to see every day what Armstrong has "given back." His standing among patients with cancer and those that care for them is extraordinary. That he has chosen to focus on "giving back" to the cancer community is something I'm rather happy about and so are tens of thousands of patients and families. The notion that he does not "give back" is ridiculous.
Posted by: Grover Bagby at Jul 3, 2004 7:21:24 PM
Thomas, you are fighting your own straw man. Were you trying to change the subject? It was never claimed that Armstrong didn't give anything back -- only that he didn't give back to cycling what he has taken from it. So what is your opinion of the real point?
Posted by: Jak King at Jul 3, 2004 11:53:06 PM
Sorry, my comment was addressed to Grover (not Thomas). My apologies.
Posted by: Jak King at Jul 3, 2004 11:54:11 PM
A lot has changed since the era of Merckx. That was back in the middle ages of cycling.
Armstrong had cancer spread throughout his brain, metastatic and aggressive. He was certain to die. But he survived. His survival alone would be cause for celebration. His survival to win a single Tour is simply incredible.
But to win 5 consecutive tours? Amazing.
The critics diminish themselves.
Posted by: Marvin at Jul 4, 2004 4:07:47 PM