Just days after Betsy Andreu, the wife of a former team-mate of Lance Armstrong, criticised the American for “reaching out” to various individuals that he had fallen out with in a cynical exercise to try to reduce his life ban from elite sport, the Texan has met Christophe Bassons to apologise for his role in forcing the French cyclist off the 1999 Tour de France.
Bassons earned the nickname ‘Mr Clean’ within the professional peloton after the Frenchman refused to use performance-enhancing drugs alongside his Festina teammates in the controversial 1998 edition of the Tour.
The 39-year-old earned further notoriety during the following year’s Tour when he wrote in his column for Le Parisien that he was “shocked” by Armstrong’s performances at the race.
Armstrong later launched a bitter attack on the Franšaise des Jeux rider while the peloton rounded on him for breaking the omertÓ, the unwritten code of silence.
Bassons’ career was effectively ended by Armstrong’s bullying tactics after he later withdrew from the race before retiring from professional cycling in 2001.
Despite suffering a period of depression following his early retirement from the sport, Bassons, speaking earlier this year, refused to admonish the Texan, saying: “As fake as he seems, he suffered at the hands of a system, and within that system he created his own system. I wouldn’t hang up on him [if he called], I would listen to him and why not meet up with him?”
Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour titles and banned for life for serial drug-taking, held face-to-face talks with Bassons in a Paris hotel on Friday, L’Equipe has reported.
“The most important thing for me is to tell you in private that I’m sorry,” the paper quoted Armstrong as telling Bassons in the Friday meeting.
Meanwhile, L’Equipe said that Armstrong is also planning on meeting former Italian rider Filippo Simeoni who he famously chased down during stage 18 of the 2004 Tour.
Simeoni had testified in court saying that Armstrong started doping in 1993 — they both shared a doctor in Michele Ferrari — leading to the American waging a one-man war against the Domina-Vacanze rider.
Simeoni, who had just one significant race win to his name at the time, had made a move in an attempt to join a six-man breakaway. Usual protocol in this situation would be for the race leader, providing nobody in the break posed any threat to his overall lead, to allow the riders their moment of fleeting exposure and possible glory.
Not, though, Armstrong. After seeing Simeoni go on up the road, Armstrong chased him down before catching him.
"Armstrong and I spoke as the peloton was catching us but I prefer not to say what he said,” Simeoni said afterwards.