ASPEN, Colo.Â â€”Â The Associated Press
Lance Armstrong was feeling just fine even after being beaten by a lanky teenager in a grueling 36-mile mountain bike race.
Better than fine, even. Heâ€™s more at ease now than he has been in a decade.
In his first interview since the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency disciplined Armstrong with a lifetime ban from professional cycling and vacated his seven Tour de France titles, he said, â€œNobody needs to cry for me. Iâ€™m going to be great.â€
Armstrong couldnâ€™t catch Keegan Swirbul at the Power of Four bike race Saturday, finishing nearly five minutes behind the hard-charging kid. Â â€œItâ€™s cool to get your butt kicked by a 16-year-old when you know he has a bright future,â€ Armstrong said, smiling.
Asked if there was anything he would to say to his fans, the ones whoâ€™ve supported him through the controversy, he said: â€œI think people understand that weâ€™ve got a lot of stuff to do going forward. Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m focused on and I think people are supportive of that. Itâ€™s great to be out here.â€
And while Armstrong may be banned from cycling, it certainly hasnâ€™t diminished his passion for competition. Â Only now, these weekend races may have to suffice.
â€œItâ€™s not so much about racing anymore for me,â€ Armstrong said. â€œFor me, itâ€™s more about staying fit and coming out here and enjoying one of the most beautiful parts of the world, on a beautiful day, on a very hard course. Some may say youâ€™re a little sick to spend your free time doing stuff like this. I had a good time.â€
So did Swirbul â€” beating his idol was the highlight of his burgeoning career.
Or so he thought. Then came this: Armstrong saying Swirbul was a rider to keep an eye on down the road. Swirbul beamed as he stood next to Armstrong.
Swirbul hardly had the heart to tell Armstrong that he won with only one gear â€” the rest going out early in the race.
â€œIâ€™m so psyched right now,â€ said Swirbul, who turns 17 on Sept. 2. â€œI wanted to win this race so bad.â€
â€œTo beat the 7-time Tour champ,â€ he said, grinning.
To riders such as Swirbul, Armstrong will always be champion of those Tour de France titles, no matter what rulings are made.
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