While training in Kona, Hawaii in mid February, Lance Armstrong challenged Chris Lieto to an impromptu TT showdown on the Queen K highway and won by 9 seconds. These two Pros will meet again during the stage 7 time trial of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California. But who will take round 2 in downtown Los Angeles? Lance Armstrong certainly would appear to have the edge, but let us find out what Chris Lieto thinks.
Slowtwitch: Tell us how your invite into the 2010 Amgen Tour of California TT came about.
Chris: It came about through Trek and their involvement with the Tour. I think part of it is that the organizers wanted me to be part of it as well, being one of the stronger cyclists in the sport of triathlon and having some cycling as a background. Especially with the whole Twitter thing with Lance and the TT and the excitement and curiosity it brought around. It is all about promoting going out and riding a bike in the sport of cycling and the sport of triathlon. We all do the same thing, something active.
ST: So it helps to have Trek as a sponsor.
Chris: With Trek being a sponsor of the Shack it was certainly a good fit. Also Trek is launching the Speedconcept on that day, so the day of the TT is the release day of the bike. It’ll be a big event just prior to the TT and a whole lot more info will be available after that.
ST: Did you think about racing this TT before?
Chris: I didn’t really think about it much. Trek asked me if that was a good thing for me to be involved with, especially with the launch of the Speedconcept. I have done stage races in the past and have excitement and great respect for the guys who ride in the Tours. Especially in the big Tours, and the Tour of California is ranked up there with all the Tours in Europe as well. Much different than the stage racing I have done in my side career. Riding the Tour of Utah, Cascades or Hood is exciting and fun but this is a whole new ballgame. Just to be part of one stage is going to be fun. I am not in the mix with them but we ride prior to them and on the same course, closed course and everything.
ST: Have you looked at the course at all?
Chris: Not really. I know it is a bit shorter than 40k, that is pretty much all I know. Well I know it is in LA near downtown, so I figure it is probably going to be a little technical with a lot of corners.
ST: We know that not everyone will be going full throttle in the TT, as some of them will have other general classification team obligations. But among those going for the stage win, how well do you think you’ll do?
Chris: Where do I think I am going to hold up in the mix of all that?
Chris: I don’t know; it’ll be interesting. I have placed top 10 in time trials like the Tour of Utah, but that is a much different caliber of racing. I probably don’t see myself placing top 10 and I’d be pretty blown away if I would get that. You know I am just out to have fun and enjoy, but of course anytime I go out and race, I like to compete with myself and pull the best out of myself.
ST: Lance Armstrong and you had a TT challenge in Kona a couple months back and Lance took that one by 9 seconds. What will be the gap this time and who will be up?
Chris: I think the gap will much, much bigger and he will take it. I have no idea and it is hard to say. I was riding well and feeling good that day and who knows on a longer more technical course. He could put 2 minutes in me or more. I would be stoked if I finish within a minute, but I have a feeling in will be more like 2-3 minutes.
ST: How does this TT fit into your schedule?
Chris: I look at it as a training day. I am doing my normal training as if I was not doing it, but it will fill in as my ride for that day with a very solid effort. Will be a good hard effort that should help my training. But I am not going to focus on this time trial as if I were focusing on a Half Ironman coming up, or another distance race.
ST: Macca thought that you will take this very serious.
Chris: I think I take everything I do seriously. Like I said, I am going to push myself as hard as I can and I want to get the most out of it. But I am not taking it seriously like I am going to see how well I can place in the Pro peloton. I am taking it serious when I get on my bike and I prepare and warm up in the morning, so I am going to prepare myself. But I have a full load of training to get ready for a Half Ironman coming up, including a lot of running the next couple of weeks. Not to make any excuses whatsoever because these guys in the Pro Peloton are riding five, six days prior this thing and their legs are probably going to be more tired than mine.
ST: What are your thoughts about the other triathletes in the event?
Chris: I think it is fun to have the crossover. It is great for the sport of triathlon to bring some awareness to the sport. We want to get the excitement and the sponsors in the sport of cycling to cross over into triathlon. I think with Lance getting involved in the sport of triathlon and having some interest in coming to Hawaii, that’ll do great things for our sport. I am passionate about that and look forward to that time. It’ll hopefully bring more respect to the sport of triathlon that we can ride bikes and that we are not just a bunch of guys in speedos. As for Chrissie, I just hope she doesn’t beat me.
ST: Do you know who else has been invited?
Chris: I really don’t know who else has been invited. I really don’t know too many details of the event, but I am sure it is going to be a challenge. Anytime you ride 20-some odd miles all out it is going to be painful. But the more guys are there to compete, the better it is.
ST: Any word if you have to comply with the UCI rules in your race?
Chris: No idea if they apply the UCI rules or not. If they do I am not too worried about it because I don’t sit that far forward. I am a tad forward, but last time when I raced a UCI event when they checked my position with that contraption that they put up against your seat, your bottom bracket and your handlebars and measure everything, mine passed. I used to ride 5 cm behind the bottom bracket on my TT bike and I have moved it forward slightly, but I still think it falls within range of being legit. Should I have to scoot it back a centimeter then that is fine, I still can TT with it.
ST: Thanks for your time
Chris: You bet.