Questions in the Giro press room about a guy called Lance Armstrong now focus less on hisform and more on theseven-time Tour winner chances of hanging around for the entire race.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

The past few days in the sala stampa (press room) at the Centenary Giro d'Italia,
questions about a guy called Lance Armstrong revolve less about his
form or whether he'll win a stage or the race itself, but whether the
seven-time Tour winner will hang around for the entire 21 stages.

Since that troubled day in Milan last Sunday, where, at the behest of race organiser Angelo Zomegnan and the thousands of tifosi who gathered in the city's famous Piazza Duomo,
the stage was neutralised and many journalists fielded blame on the
Texan – who was believed to have instigated the stage shut-down -
Armstrong has gone cold with the press.

In actual fact, ever
since the start of the race in Venice, he hasn't been particularly
friendly with the English-language journalists – a far cry from how
things were at his comeback event, our own Tour Down Under, staged this
past January in South Australia.

You can count those aforementioned scribes – myself included – attending the 92nd Giro on two hands, and since the sixth leg that ended in Mayrhofen,
Austria, Armstrong hasn't answered a single question to any of us hacks
– before or after each stage. And so far, not one one-on-one interview.


That Astana's Trojan workhorse, Chris Horner, injured his knee in a fall a few days ago has no doubt placed added pressure on the rest of the team in Levi Leipheimer's bid for overall victory – Armstrong included.

Up to that point Horner,
as always in Grand Tours, was the loyal lieutenant, and over this
coming third week that sees three mountain-top finishes before
concluding with a short individual time trial in Rome, he will be
sorely missed.

Thankfully for Levi, he has Lance.

A Lance that only just recently, has shown more of his old self, most notably on the tenth stage to Pinerolo, where he finished seventh to a tenacious Danilo Di Luca, who earned his second stage victory and 20 more crucial bonus seconds that could prove vital come Roma.

Will staying till the finish to try and help Leipheimer win impact Armstrong's chances for the Tour de France? Probably not. In fact, now he's coming good, it would probably benefit him.

Said
Di Luca on Armstrong: "I see him better and better, and stronger and
stronger. I think he'd like to win a stage. After he'll go to Colorado
to prepare for the Tour, and I think he'll be one of the contenders at
the Tour."

Speaking of which, it seems to be the Giro where journalists are left asking what they did wrong.

You
may or may not have seen or heard that I have raised the ire of
sprinter Mark Cavendish. Michael Rogers' twitter post the other day
said so: "Cav not happy with Mr. Tan", he twittered.

Yes, it's true: I do ask questions designed to provoke – but provoke a response, not provoke for the sake of provocation.

I love the sport – for close to 20 years, it's been this way – and the feats I see these lycra-clad athletes achieve, at the top of their game, at the world's biggest races, is continually mesmerising.

Why would I mock the very riders that I admire?

But
let's get one thing straight: I am a journalist; it is my job to ask
questions, to delve, to discover, and ultimately, to report and inform
the audiences who read the very publications I work for.

When
I report, I report with impartiality, but at the same time I report the
facts, I aim to entertain. Who wants to read a bland piece that
resembles something spat out by a wire service?

Cavendish is
young, Cavendish is talented, Cavendish works hard and deserves the
rewards he seeks. But the 24-year-old must learn to think before he
speaks, and not take offense to questions where the answer may not
always be easy, where the journalist attempts to discover something
about his psyche; what drives him to be the great sprinter that he is.
Often, that involves a bit of prodding to gauge his opinion on his
rivals.

And after all cycling's been through these past 10 years, beginning with the 1998 'l'affaire Festina', it is the riders who must re-engage the trust of the press, not the other way round.