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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Jonathan Vaughters

Aired July 4, 2003 - 19:14   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: As the 100th Tour de France starts tomorrow, an American, Lance Armstrong, is hoping to tie the record for most consecutive wins, five.
That prospect has American fans very excited. It has French officials concerned for his safety, given the current political climate of anti-American sentiment overseas. They've been reviewing their security, especially with 15 million fans expected to line the route.

Joining us to talk about all this tonight is Jonathan Vaughters, a Tour de France veteran and a former teammate of Armstrong.

Jonathan, thanks for being with us. Now just in March, I'm told, just before the war, Lance Armstrong sort of made some of his concerns about security known to French officials. I mean, do you think it's a real problem in this Tour de France?

JONATHAN VAUGHTERS, PROFESSIONAL CYCLIST: Well, I mean I definitely don't think that, you know, any sort of attack or what not would come from, you know, the French people.

You know, the security is very good at the start of the stage and at the finish of the stage. The problem lies in especially the mountain stages, where in the center of the stage as the rider is going up the hills are slowed down to, you know, around ten miles an hour and people can actually just walk out and touch a rider.

COOPER: And that's always been one of the things that the French love about the Tour de France, that the riders are so accessible, as you said, and people reach out and touch them.

Some have sort of complained, some French, have complained that Lance Armstrong is sort of a such a big celebrity, I mean, he has bodyguards not only this year but in the past years and that he sort of -- I don't know -- do they like him there?

VAUGHTERS: Well, I mean, he definitely is a little bit more distance than past cycling stars have been. You know, one of the beauties of the sport of cycling is that you can do just that, you know, reach out and touch, you know, the rider who's winning it or the rider who's getting last or any which one you'd like to do.

It's -- you know, he's distanced himself a little bit, but I mean, the reality of it is when he's out racing he's just as touchable as any of the other riders. COOPER: And the bottom line is, even if they don't like him per se, they do respect him, certainly, for his accomplishments?

VAUGHTERS: Yes. I mean, you know, Lance is, I mean, truthfully not that well liked amongst the French people, but they absolutely respect him. He's someone who's come back from cancer to win the largest sporting even in their country four times in a row. He's proved he's the best rider in the world in a sport that they love.

So I mean, respect is absolutely there. And that's the reason I really think the risk to him is minimal, you know, from the French people, just even if they don't like him they respect him.

COOPER: He's hoping to go, obviously, for his fifth win. I guess the idea being in the next year go for the sixth win, which no one has ever done in the history of the Tour de France, as I understand it. Do you think he could actually do it?

VAUGHTERS: Yes, he can definitely do it. He needs to win this year in order to go for six. I mean, if you lose one year, two years you kind of lose momentum. And to go for a record like that I don't think it would be possible.

But if he wins this year -- which I think is going to be more challenging for him than it has been in the past -- but if he wins this year, you know, the possibility of going for six is a reality. And, you know, one of the key things is he's still motivated to do it, which is a rarity in a cycling champion of his age.

COOPER: And he is just an unbelievable champion. I mean, I think a lot of people don't understand just the athletic prowess that is needed, the resilience, the determination to win this thing. It's like running marathons for several days in a row. It would be a remarkable accomplishment if he's able to win this time again.

Jonathan Vaughters, appreciate you joining us. Thanks.

VAUGHTERS: Thank you.

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