PORTO VECCHIO, Corsica — They grew up watching Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France every year. Now Andrew Talansky and Tejay van Garderen carry a burden. Both 24, they are among six Americans in this year's Tour, which begins today.
This is the first Tour since Armstrong acknowledged doping. Cycling might be cleaner because of aggressive antidoping measures, but the stigma persists. Van Garderen, who finished fifth last year, believes it will be hard to regain the trust of fans.
"You have to just make a decision to ride clean, which I have, and hope people start taking an interest again," he said. "Other than that, I can scream from the top of a building that I'm clean. But I think many people have done that before."
Armstrong told Le Monde that it was "impossible" during his era to win the Tour without doping, the French newspaper reported Friday. (He also told the paper he considers himself the record-holder for Tour wins even though his seven, from 1999-2005, have been stripped.)
Jonathan Vaughters, Talansky's team manager, was a teammate of Armstrong's on the 1999 Tour and a key witness against him in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency case. He has admitted to doping while riding but today has instilled a rigorous antidoping stance. He has high hopes for Talansky, who finished second at March's Paris-Nice race.
"I think he can win a Tour. Whether it's next year, five years from now, I don't know," Vaughters said. "But he's capable."
Talansky wants to avoid putting pressure on himself in his first Tour.
"If you let this whole thing overwhelm you," he said, "then it's going to affect your performance."