BARCELONA - Lance Armstrong insists the gathering media storm around his efforts to claim an unprecedented eighth Tour de France victory is no distraction in the chase for the race leader's yellow jersey.
An aggressive media scrum of journalists and television crews awaits Armstrong around the Astana team bus after every stage of this year's race, with reporters jostling for space and hanging on the 37-year-old's every word.
As well as being the highest profile rider in the sport, Armstrong is no stranger to controversy and has faced unfounded allegations of doping throughout his career.
Now he said he wants to help give a positive image of the race after a spate of drug scandals in recent years.
"I think we have an obligation to tell a good story of the Tour and there are plenty of journalists down in the press room who want to tell a bad one," Armstrong said.
"So if the riders stay in the bus and don't come down and talk about the race, someone will scheme up some conspiracy theory which is so hare-brained it doesn't deserve the fish wrap from three days ago. It's better to come out and give a comment. I have always had an up-and-down relationship with the press."
But followers of the Tour might argue that Armstrong often did his best to avoid talking to the press during his seven-year reign, for the latter part of which he was often accompanied by a bodyguard.
He began this year's race with a low-key performance in Saturday's time trial around Monaco as Fabian Cancellara claimed the yellow jersey.
The American stayed in the peloton, or main group of cyclists, for Sunday's stage but then exploded on Monday when he latched on to a breakaway group created by the Columbia team, which pulled him up from tenth to third overall. Both Armstrong and his Spanish teammate, 2007 champion Alberto Contador, then took more time off their rivals in Tuesday's victory in the team time trial. - AFP