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The Ironman champion on Lance Armstrong and what his presence, and strong performance in Panama, means for the sport.
Chris Lieto: We talked a little before the race and after. I knew he was going to be a threat. A lot of guys were looking at it and thought he wasn’t going to be an issue, wasn’t going to be a part of it, but the guy is a talented athlete. The guy is strong. He knows what he’s doing and how to prepare, and he prepares very well. He takes it seriously, so I knew he was going to do really well.
I wouldn’t say I was totally shocked, but I was impressed with the way he held on. I knew he didn’t feel well the first few miles of the run, at least I didn’t think he did, by running with him and seeing how he was breathing. He was maxed. He was in a hurt locker for a little bit, but he impressed me, like he did in all those Tours, to push through the pain and finish strong. And he did. He finished all the way to the end. I thought (race winner) Bevan [Docherty] would have caught him sooner. He ran by me half way through the run and I thought for sure he was going to catch Lance pretty quick, but he didn’t catch Lance until the last mile. I was impressed, for sure.
Triathlete.com: What do you make of the apparent tension toward Lance from some of the other pros?
Lieto: Don’t know, I don’t think about it too much. It’s their deal, you know? To me, I look at this racing as a career I have, and I want to make the most of it, and what someone else does, you got to embrace it. By being upset or making comments it’s not going to change anything. It’s not going to change if he’s going to race or not. I think it’s good for the sport for him to be here. There’s some things you hear that it could be bad for the sport, but you embrace how it can be good and utilize what he’s offering. He’s offering his talents, his time and his exposure to our sport. I think his intentions are good. He just wants to race. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be allowed to race and do what he does.
It’s a new guy on the circuit, he hops in, hasn’t done a race and does really well. It’s going to upset some people, you know? I think it’s fun. I get to race him a few times this year and hopefully I think he’ll be in Hawaii and it could be great. Should be a good show.
Triathlete.com: How can he do in the Ironman World Championship?
Lieto: He definitely can get top-10, no problem, no doubt. It depends, but I think he has the potential to get top-5. It totally depends on the conditions. His strengths are similar to mine. If it’s a windy day he has a chance to win. If it’s no wind and it’s group riding in a sense like it’s been in the past, it’s going to be a runner’s race again and he won’t have enough time.
He’ll put in the time to be prepared. You have to look at him as a guy that can win the race. He has all the resources and he puts in what he needs to get the job done. He’s not going to go to Hawaii not prepared, he’s going to go to try and win and he has the ability to win. It’s also going to be his first time in Hawaii and there are things the first time racing there that you see. How it unfolds, what happens, how tactically it is. Its different than how it’s perceived, it’s different than what’s in the media and you have to be prepared for that and he’s not going to be prepared by experience.