interview |  Nelson Paulis: "Armstrong did terrible things, but I don't think I would have been a cyclist without him"

interview | Nelson Paulis: “Armstrong did terrible things, but I don’t think I would have been a cyclist without him”

For Wieler Revue Tourspecial, Neilson Powless and Sepp Kuss spoke about US cycling. And of course it has to do with Lance Armstrong. They also discussed their homeland (Powless was born on a military base), the differences between the US and Europe and the Jumbo-Visma team.

For years, Americans dominated the Tour de France. With Lance Armstrong and Greg LeMond of course, but also with other good riders like Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer and Tyler Hamilton. They all fell off a pedestal when the FBI decided to get involved in their doping stories. What followed was a tough decade for American cycling.

Powless, who was part of the Jumbo-Visma team for the first two seasons of his career, doesn’t remember Armstrong’s downfall very well. “I remember my dad being very frustrated. My dad had cancer at the same time as Armstrong. Armstrong inspired him to go back and start exercising again. It was a disappointment when I learned that Armstrong had cheated.”

However, Pauwels wonders if American bikes would survive without Armstrong. “Armstrong has done terrible things, but I sometimes ask myself what American cycling would have looked like if it wasn’t for Armstrong. Cheating though, they were less popular than they are today. I don’t think I would have been a cyclist without Armstrong.”

It was a disappointment, but it was also a moment of evolution. A wake-up call that everyone is human and that you can’t love someone. I’m glad the moment I became a professional. I was able to compete on an even playing field. It seems to be a very different sport than the one I heard about 15 years ago.”

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Seb Kos won a stage in last year’s Tour de France. Tyler Farrar was the last American to do so in 2011. “Before Seb won last year’s stage, we had been drying up at the Tour de France for ten years. It’s hard to say if that was because Armstrong was accepted, but if he doesn’t come back in 2009 and 2010, there will probably be two or three WorldTour races in our country and even more pro teams.

“The big sponsors that Armstrong brought in are out. More money and investments means more teams and more young talent. The next generation can also look for that talent.”

Photo: Cor Vos

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