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FORGING AHEAD: The pack pedalling on the Col de la Schlucht during the 13th stage of the Tour de France.
COLMAR (France): Five-time Tour de France champion Bernard Hinault predicted on Friday that Lance Armstrong won’t win this year’s race, saying the American’s rivalry with Astana teammate Alberto Contador is motivating the Spaniard.
In an interview in Friday’s edition of French sports newspaper L’Equipe, Hinault claimed Armstrong’s age — 37 — and Contador’s superior climbing skills mean the American won’t win the Tour for a record eighth time.
“I don’t think so. He’s of a certain age, and Contador is able to build a big lead in the mountains,” said Hinault, the last Frenchman to win the Tour, in 1985. “In the time trial in Monaco, Armstrong lost 20 seconds in the first five kilometers, the uphill part. Believe me, it’s a sign.”
Hinault said he suspected there are efforts within Astana to get under Contador’s skin but said they aren’t working.Calm
“They’re trying, but it must be motivating for him. (Contador) is surprising me with his calm.
“He seems very calm and mentally ready, because this war didn’t just start yesterday,” Hinault said.
Hinault, whose antipathy for Armstrong has grown in recent years, said if Contador does win under these conditions “it will be a great victory.”
Hinault said Armstrong’s return to the Tour four years after his last victory made little impression on him.
“I couldn’t care less about Armstrong. If he’s at the Tour or not, it changes nothing. We have nothing in common. There’s also the language barrier, so we’ve never been able to speak man to man,” Hinault said.
“He would have impressed me if at the height of his career, he raced the Giro (d’Italia), the classics. He is the champion of the Tour, nothing more.” — AP
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