Lance's Armstrong's Last Ride
Credit: Getty Images
If you win this year's Tour, you will go out as having had perhaps the greatest athletic career ever. But you're also risking being like Muhammad Ali or Michael Jordan, athletes who stuck around too long. Are you worried about tarnishing your record?
Not a risk in my mind. I feel strong and have the best team, director, staff, and sponsors in the peloton.

Looking at this year's course, do you see anything in it that looks designed to make it especially difficult for you?
[Actually] it seems a bit easier, with fewer mountaintop finishes and fewer time trials. But it's still one of the hardest sporting events in the world.

What's your greatest concern about the Tour right now?
The first week is always a bit scary. You have to stay with your team near the front and try to avoid the crashes. You cannot win the Tour in the first week – but you can lose it.

You say the course this year is a bit easier, so where will the yellow jersey be won?
The three mountaintop finishes and the last time trial. That last TT could be decisive.

Which riders will you have your eye on?
Well, the one guy that we always watch and are aware of is Jan Ullrich. And Ivan Basso had a great Tour last year and he is someone that is a huge talent.

For the last six years Ullrich has been your main rival. What are the key differences between you two?
He is very strong. I don't think Jan loses the Tour in July but rather in December. I see this race as a year-round job.

You've had many great moments during your 10 Tours, but what are your three worst memories?
The worst was losing Fabio Casartelli [an Italian teammate who died in a crash in the Pyrenees] in 1995. Second was the TT in 2003 when I lost time to Jan and thought about getting off the bike. Third, the Morzine mountain stage in 2000, when I almost cracked.

During the race, aren't you bothered by hecklers or people spitting at you? Or do they motivate you even further?
Our sport is not unlike others. When the Yankees go to Fenway, they are not welcomed with flowers and champagne. You notice them, but we are usually in the zone and do not get distracted by them.

You've had death threats: Are you afraid there will be an incident that could interfere with the race?
The unique thing about cycling is how close the fans can be. If someone wants to cause a problem, they can, but for the most part the fans respect the race.

Who might be the next Great One in cycling?
We have some great young talent on Discovery, like Popo [Yaroslav Popovych].

You won't be in the peloton in the 2006 Tour, so do you think the race will be wide open?
I am not sure who is going to win in 2005, let alone next year. [But] I think Jan would be the favorite.

What will your role be with Discovery after you retire? Will you coach, help strategize, train?
All of the above.