...really gift Pantani Ventoux?
Or was it a cycnical way for him to disguise a defeat?
* * *
COURCHEVEL, France (AP) -- Lance Armstrong thought he was being respectful by letting Marco Pantani win a Tour de France stage last week but now regrets being so generous.
The defending Tour de France champion, who is set to retain his title this week, eased up in the final stages of the famed climb up Mont Ventoux after a rousing battle with the Italian.
Pantani, one of the world's great climbers and 1998 Tour de France champion, has since told Italian journalists that the American's move was an insult.
"I am very disappointed. I thought he had more class than that," Armstrong said of Pantani on Monday, a rest day on the Tour. "It is unfortunate, but we are now seeing him in his true colors. I felt like it was a gift but now know that it was a mistake to give him the gift."
Many race fans were surprised at the end of last Thursday's 12th stage when Armstrong, seeing that his main challengers for the title had pulled back, eased off in the final 20 meters.
The 28-year-old Texan explained his decision by saying Pantani's riding had been "admirable."
"Pantani is a great climber, a great champion, but he wasn't the best man on Ventoux and anyone who saw the race knows that," Armstrong said.
EDIT * Or did he do it to avoid doping controls as stage winner?