Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong has revealed what he considers to be one of the worst acts of his career in a segment of his new documentary, LANCE.
At the peak of his powers in the early to mid 2000s, where he won seven consecutive Tour de France titles, Armstrong was not only the king of the cycling world, he was one of the most influential individuals on the planet - full-stop.
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But in 2003, the first cracks in Armstrong’s champion facade began to appear after celebrated Italian rider Filippo Simeoni publicly accused Armstrong’s coach, Dr Michele Ferrari, of giving him performance enhancing subtances.
It wouldn’t be until 2004 that Armstrong would extract revenge for this slight.
With his yellow jersey not under threat during the 18th stage of that year’s Tour, Armstrong could have simply led the peleton to the stage victory without incident - but the American saw red when Simeoni broke from the pack to chase a leading group of six.
Armstrong saw red when the Italian broke away and work soon got out - if Simeoni continued to chase the leading group, Armstrong would bring the entire peleton with him.
Out of respect for the leading group, Simeoni backed down - but the incident stuck with him for years afterwards, as it did with Armstrong’s teammates from the US Postal Service team.
“I made a super effort to get to the escape but Armstrong said the peloton would not let the group remain in front unless I let them go,” Simeoni said after the stage.
“I slowed down out of respect for the other riders there. He shouldn’t worry about little riders like me.”
In the documentary, Simeoni revealed Armstrong had threatened him over his exposure of Dr Ferrari, and was filthy with the Italian for bringing a defamation suit against him after he’d labelled his rival a ‘liar’.
““He told me, ‘You made a big mistake. You shouldn’t have testified against Dr. Ferrari and especially not sued me for defamation,” Simeoni said in the documentary.
“I have no problems, I have time, I have money, and I can destroy you whenever I want.’”
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Several of Armstrong’s teammates from the time said they were shocked by the incident when it happened.
Floyd Landis said it was one of the most ‘irrational’ things he’d seen on the Tour.
“The most irrational thing I’ve ever seen him do was in 2004 when he decided to chase down this Italian rider Filippo Simeoni,” he said.
“When you’re that protected by the organisation that runs cycling, I mean you can actually take out personal vendettas as well as win at the same time. He liked that, that was his thing.”
After his fraudulent career was exposed, Armstrong apologised to many he had wronged in the past, including Simeoni.
The former champion said the incident was one of his lowest moments, comparing it to his treatment of former masseuse Emma O’Reilly, who also spoke out about the use of performance enhancing substances.
“To stoop to that level, that’s not what a champion does. So I needed to go say sorry for that,” Armstrong said.
“I went there in 2013; so it had been nine years.
“He said, ‘For nine years my entire life is associated with you.’
“This is a guy who was a multiple-time Italian champion and won stages; I mean, he’d won some races. But everybody remembered that day, because I was a f**king asshole.
“So it just takes those days and hearing those things to learn and to be like, ‘Okay, what you thought was bad, was way worse.’”
Former teammate Jonathan Vaughters said Armstrong was ‘vindictive’ in his pursuit of Simeoni.
“Lance chased him down vindictively,” he said.
“When eventually Simeoni comes back to the peloton, Lance comes up to the camera and (zips his mouth).
“I mean, you cannot get more fundamentally evil than that.”