Lance Armstrong held court in Milan on Friday afternoon a few hours before riding Milan-San Remo, his first race in Europe after making his comeback.
With most of the Italian media happy to have the Texan in Italy, the questions were mostly tame and the 37 year-old seemed to enjoy being in the European media spotlight.
The only moment when Armstrong gave his famous ?look? came when he was asked if he would shake hands with Filippo Simeoni before the start on Saturday morning.
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Armstrong famously chased down Simeoni during a stage of the 2004 Tour de France after he had accused Dr Michele Ferrari, during a trial in Bologna, of doping riders. Trying to put his ghosts of the past behind him, Armstrong claimed he would shake hands with Simeoni.
?There?s really no issue for me, it?s more of an issue of the press. I know we have to build the internal dramas in the sport but I?ve been very clear that I?ve no problems with him personally,? he said.
?This is an old story. I?ve no interest in discussing again. I have no personal animosity with him. End of story, end of discussion. It?s frankly time to move on.?
LEAN AND MEAN
Looking lean and mean with a new haircut after the French anti-doping inspectors cut out lumps of his hair, Armstrong talked about how he hopes Milan-San Remo will help him measure his form before next week?s Castilla y Leon stage raced in Spain. He said time is ticking away, with just six weeks to go to the start of the Giro d?Italia, and admitted he is no spring chicken at almost 38. But he confirmed he will not just be riding the ?gelato? at the Giro even though his desire to win had softened.
?I don?t want to sound like a complete slacker but I don?t have a lot ambition (at Milan-San Remo) except to have a good day, have a safe day. I hope to stay out of trouble and get to the finish. Of course one a racer, always a racer. If there are 30 or 40 guys left, I hope I?m there.?
Armstrong rode the Manie climb that was included in Milan-San Remo for the first time last year before travelling to Milan. He predicted it would shape the race.
?It was mainly for safety, I went to see it mainly for the run in. The turn before the climb is narrow and so it?ll be a fight to be at the front. Hopefully we?ll be up there too,? he said.
?The climb can also be a factor in the race. After 300km anything you?ve done before that makes a difference. The big thing that I noticed as we came to Milan is that if we have the same wind as today, there will be a cross wind for 140km and that will make it very tough.?
Armstrong claimed he has been out of the sport too long to pick the winner.
?I?m not good at prognostics, I only know 50% of the guys in the race now but it?s the list of usual suspects: Boonen, Petacchi, Hushovd and O?Grady.?
Armstrong was questioned about his Twitter criticism of team mate and possible Tour de France rival Alberto Contador. The two will ride together in Castilla y Leon and he continued to try and make up for his first instinctive tweet, when he said Contador ?still has a lot to learn.?
?I didn?t mean it as a criticism per se. I have a ton of respect for Alberto, He?s the best multi-day racer in cycling. There?s no one better, myself included. I like Alberto. He?s on our team and it?s my job as an older rider to help him,? he said.
OLD MAN ARMSTRONG
Armstrong claimed he is where he wants to be form wise for the time of year but seemed ready to accept that he might not be the same rider he was in 2005 when he retired after his seven consecutive victories at the Tour de France.
?In the first couple of races my back was a real problem. I?m back to my old seat and so my back issue has cleared up. My fountain of youth is in a bike seat?.?he quipped.
?I felt ill when I saw my picture in Equipe. I mentally I feel 25 and body feels pretty young too. Tomorrow will be as good test for the back and next week will be a big week in Spain with two uphill finishes and a time trial. That will give me a real indication of where I am. I think we?re on schedule.?
?Some people expect me to be the same rider I was when I retired in 2005. They expect me to comeback at the same fitness, look the same and win the same but that?s not possible. I?m optimistic that I?m moving in the right direction but there are questions in my mind that I have to answer about my fitness. I hope Milan-San Remo shows my condition is coming along.?
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