If nothing else, the man is not afraid of a microphone.
VN: Can you be confident in a winner of this Tour?
GL: Yes, because they’re finally making changes. Look at Taylor Phinney, he only just started racing and two years later he won the junior world championship. I recently read an interview with Davis and he thought that Taylor could become a good classics rider. I say, screw that! He’s winning pursuit and time trial events against guys who are 10 years older than he is. That’s what I was doing. I won the Circuit de la Sarthe at 18 against professionals. Your genetic potential does not change in your career. It’s there at 17, 18, the only thing that changes when you race professionally 100 days a year is that you’re trying to figure out how to be at your peak. My ability didn’t change from when I was 18 or 19. I was third in the Dauphiné my first year. So you can see that quality in a rider like Cadel when he made that transition from mountain biking. It is very difficult, and it has been the last 15 years, to see who is really good. Christophe Bassons might have been the best rider in the Tour. We don’t know. We look at history, we have 100 years of cycling, Merckx didn’t come out of thin-air and win the Tour at 28 years old. He was good at 19, 20; Fignon, myself. All these new training programs, oh, I lost some weight, higher RPMs, how can you can lose more weight than 3-4% body weight? All these training theories – physiology has not changed.
VN: Have you returned because of changes in the sport?
GL: I can believe in cycling that is going to change in a very positive way. The sport needed what’s happened to it. It didn’t change after Festina, and it didn’t change after Puerto, or Landis. It needed (what happened) last year, because all of a sudden, there was a crisis. The pressure of sponsors pulling out, then it had to change. I’ve been pushing for an independent anti-doping agency, not associated with the Tour, not the UCI. The anti-doping control people need to be completely independent. They shouldn’t care if cycling is destroyed by a positive.
We have to make sure that the tests are fair. We have to go forward. The biological passport looks at the chemistry of the body, but we also need to be doing testing on wattage and V02 max, but it all comes down to genetics. When you dope, you can change your oxygen intact by 15 to 25 percent, so by the end of the Tour, you can see a 35 to 40 percent increase in power output. Even if you’re the hardest-working person, you cannot do it. We have to get back to a point where talent alone can win the Tour de France. Someone is going to win this Tour, but it might go 5km slower, it would probably be more dramatic.
VN: Do you think there was something the UCI could have done to stop the doping back in the late 1990s after the Festina affair?
GL: Festina, what did it change, nothing? It was all talk, all PR. I was here in ’98, and I was like, good, finally! At least now they’re going to do something about. They didn’t change a thing. When you have the UCI president, Hein Verbruggen, when a rider died of a heart attack and the sport director of his team went to Verbruggen and said, ‘we have to look ourselves in the mirror and change, or we’ll all be dead when we’re 50.’ And when Verbruggen’s response was, ‘if you don’t like the sport, get the hell out.’ That’s a strong sign of what his priorities are. They’d threaten riders if they talked about doping.
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