"Man, I have seen this movie," drawls a familiar voice. "The ending is s***. [Dave] Brailsford needs to put the shovel down and stop digging."

This has been an interesting Tour de France in many ways. The battle for the yellow jersey has been the closest in years. There have been crashes and controversy. French panache. Plenty of talking points. But there has been one unexpected addition to this year's Tour, which has added to the experience for many - Lance Armstrong's Stages podcast.

Stages attracts around 300,000 downloads a day across all platforms and that number is growing. The podcast has obvious limitations. Recorded a few minutes after the end of each stage from an Airstream caravan in Aspen, Colorado, it offers little in the way of "live colour"; the sights, the sounds, the smells of a hard-working peloton on the road.

What Stages does offer is unique insight into cycling's biggest race from a man who lived it, breathed it and, let's face it, abused it for years. It is irreverent. It is mischievous. He gets guests on. Former teammate George Hincapie has been sitting in recently.


The elephant in the Airstream can get too much. There is clearly more than a little hypocrisy in cycling's biggest cheat and bully of all time, a man who destroyed careers, criticising Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford for cherry-picking which reporters he wants to speak with.

"To do that [have a row] in front of those journalists," Armstrong said incredulously. "I see this trend with Dave Brailsford. That was a mistake to take on [a reporter]. No one knows who Cycling News is. They do now. They do not know about coverage Brailsford doesn't like. They do now."

The fact remains, though, that Stages is also packed with interesting anecdotes and analysis. The answer to the "what-would-you-have-done-in-that-situation?" question, which co-host JB Hager frequently puts to him, is nearly always fascinating because Armstrong bossed the Tour for years. He knows what the main players are thinking, how he would be reacting. And he genuinely seems to enjoy it.

It all adds up to a bit of a conundrum: should we be listening at all?

Armstrong would love us to. The Texan is clearly trying hard to rehabilitate himself into polite society. He already hosts one other podcast, The Forward (on which he gets very eclectic guests), while a cameo in HBO's new 'mockumentary' Pharmacy Road is an attempt from a man who two years ago dubbed himself the "Voldemort" of professional cycling to show he has learnt how to poke fun at himself. He does not deny the fact that he craves an audience.

"I had two platforms before: cycling and cancer," he told CNN.com recently. "A man with no platform is a lost man. I'm sure there are plenty of emails that tell me to 'go f*** yourself'," he added. "But I'm not overly concerned by the negativity."

Two things are certain. Armstrong will continue to polarise opinion. And Stages is a pretty good listen when driving four hours through the Alps.

• New Zealand cyclist Jack Bauer summoned the energy to place 11th on the penultimate stage of the Tour. Bauer clocked 28m 56s for the 22.5km time trial in Marseille, the Quick-Step Floors rider 41s slower than stage winner Maciej Bodnar of Poland.