LONS-LE-SAUNIER (France): Lance Armstrong displayed his well-known determined side, but in bizarre fashion here yesterday after chasing down an early attack by Italian Filippo Simeoni on the 18th stage of the Tour de France.
The 32-year-old US Postal leader finished the stage with the main peloton around 11 minutes behind a group of six riders after Spaniard Juan Miguel Mercado had won the stage for his Quick Step team.
Armstrong, who has also won four stages on this year's race, retained his 4min 09sec lead on second placed Italian Ivan Basso, of CSC, and is well on his way to a record sixth yellow jersey.
However despite his total domination Armstrong showed that he does not forget those who have tried to harm him, including Simeoni.
The 32-year-old Italian is a key witness in the trial of Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari, with whom Armstrong has worked in the past, and earlier in the race confirmed his intention to take Armstrong to court for defamation.
Simeoni wants to sue the five-time winner over comments made in French newspaper Le Monde in July 2003, when the American called him a “liar”.
The Le Monde article quoted Armstrong as saying that Simeoni had “lied” when he told investigators it was Ferrari who showed him (Simeoni) how to use the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) effectively.
Yesterday Simeoni, who rides for the modest Domina Vacanze team, tried to get into the breakaway of the six riders earlier in the day in a bid to achieve his objective of a stage win.
Despite not being a threat in the general classification, the Italian was soon pulled back after Armstrong's bizarre counter-attack and even gestured in frustration when he saw the American at his side.
In what was one of the most bizarre incidents of the race – the race leader rarely chase down attacks, leaving it to their more lowly teammates – Simeoni's attempt to make ground on the peloton was soon snuffed out.
While organisers and television commentators were stunned at what was regarded as a useless and petulant move on the part of Armstrong the American – when asked about his motives – said nothing about settling old scores.
“I was protecting the interest of the peloton,” said Armstrong.
As Simeoni was no danger whatsoever to anyone in the peloton, Armstrong's tactics were regarded as unworthy of his status as the boss of the Tour de France peloton. – AFP