Interview: Lance Armstrong Talks Triathlon

by TriEurope

Lance Armstrong caused a sensation when he made a return to triathlon after a 22-year hiatus. Triathlete Europe was given exclusive access to the man after he raced Xterra, and spoke to the legend about triathlon, Ironman, and how riding in a tri compares to racing the Tour.

Lance Armstrong, XTERRA, triathlonNow that you’ve had some time to reflect on the Xterra race, what are your impressions of the whole experience—your first race after more than 20 years?
It was a lot harder than I expected. The effort was much more intense than what I thought it would be, which is partly due to the lack of intensity I had done in my training. And the altitude made it that much harder—but that was true for everyone racing. The most intense thing I did in training was swim with a group. Other than that I’d ride with some buddies, and the running has been sporadic because of my plantar fasciitis.

Why Xterra?
I spend a lot of time with [former pro and 1996 Xterra world champion] Jimmy Riccitello. We had always talked about doing an Xterra at some point, and I just thought that it was a logical place to go. I spent the summer at our house in Colorado and have been doing a lot more mountain biking than road riding so that was another factor. And generally at Xterra the emphasis is more on the bike.

Running off the bike was probably somewhat of a foreign sensation. How were your running legs, especially on such a brutal course?
Yeah, it was a hard start—straight up. It’s steep, it’s at altitude; no one is going fast. You’re sort of fast-walking, fast-hiking. And then the single-track stuff is really technical. When I pre-ran the course I actually tripped and fell and took a pretty good gash out of my hand so I was pretty sensitive to that.

Any plans for your next triathlons?
If you asked me that question after the finish I would have told you that I did not enjoy myself. ‘OK, 22 years later, checked that box and I’m out.’ But I’ve sort of gotten over that and realized if I just simplify things a little and do some more specific training it will hurt less—not necessarily be more fun but at least it will hurt in a different way.

And what about Ironman? There’s been talk about Ironman France.
Yeah, I read that and thought, ‘Shit, did I really say that?’ We’ll see. I do have 10–12 things I want to do next year—endurance-related stuff—maybe run another marathon or go back to Leadville or Cape Epic in South Africa. I like the idea of doing three to five Xterras if they fit into the schedule. But Ironman is a serious commitment.

How closely do you follow triathlon when you’re not racing?
More in the last 12 months. For 20 years I didn’t follow it at all other than to know who won the Ironman in Hawaii. But lately I’ve started to follow the results, the splits, the events, etc. It’s fun to do just because I’m a math junkie and a Google Earth junkie so it’s fun to look at terrain and elevation and stuff like that

How has triathlon changed since you left the sport as a teenager?
The reason I left the sport was that it was not an Olympic sport. At the time I left, it seemed to be enjoying a lot of success—there was huge participation. And then triathlon went through kind of a lull for like 10 years where participation was down, sponsorship was down, so you had to kind of wonder what was going to happen to the sport. Well, we can’t say that anymore. It is back and bigger than ever. If you just look at the growth in the last few years, it’s tremendous.

How good are the best triathlon cyclists compared to the best pure cyclists?
It is apples and oranges if you compare Chris Lieto’s performance in Kona versus Tony Martin’s performance at the World Time Trial Championship. Tony could never ride that fast in an Ironman—maybe he could—but he couldn’t walk a mile afterward. If some of the best cyclists in triathlon jumped over to the Tour, say they made a longer time trial, nobody should think they’d win a time trial at the Tour. They won’t be anywhere close. Lieto and I did a fun little TT race on the Big Island a couple years ago—he was close. He was closer than people thought he’d be, which I thought was cool.

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About swimbikerun1
Devoted Father, Husband and Employee.Endurance sports fanatic (running,cycling,swimming).Triathlon athlete and coach.If only days had more than 24 hours.

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