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Armstrong swaps two wheels for four

The seven-time Tour de France cycling champion was named as pace car driver for the 90th Indianapolis 500 auto race.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 14:50 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France cycling champion, was named as pace car driver for the 90th Indianapolis 500 auto race.

The 34-year-old American retired from competitive cycling after last year's seventh consecutive Tour title but will guide the Chevrolet Corvette pace car ahead of the 33-car field in the May 28 Indy Racing League event.

"For me to be selected and asked to come, it is a huge honour," Armstrong said yesterday. "It is something that I am very excited to do. Hopefully I can not mess things up, if that's possible."

Armstrong will circle the 4-km Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval ahead of the field before a quarter-of-a-million people, veering off into the pits as cars prepare for the green flag and full-speed racing.

"It will be a rush driving around with 250,000 people there," Armstrong said. "In the opening laps is probably when they are the loudest they could be screaming for their favourite driver.

Armstrong, whose fitness was at top levels to handle the climbs and endurance test of the Tour, respects the skills needed by auto racers, whose events relatively fly by in comparison.

"When comparing cycling to other events like the Indy 500, sometimes in motorsports, people don't consider them to be athletes, but they are extremely fit," he said.

"I know a lot of drivers that spend a lot of time on the bike and a lot of time in the gym, and I can tell you they are athletes."

Armstrong said he is still far more comfortable behind handlebars than the wheel of a fast car.

"I spent 20 years racing the bike professionally, so I've gotten used to that," he said. "Driving a high-powered vehicle like that is totally different. I'd have to pick the bike as easier to handle.

"I got three speeding tickets on the way over so I'm looking at who to give those to so I get reimbursed!"

First Published: Apr 05, 2006 14:50 IST