Lance Armstrong will compete again in Tour de France
ARMSTRONG AIMS FOR 8TH TOUR TITLE
Mercury News Wire Services
Article Launched: 09/09/2008 07:40:06 PM PDT
AUSTIN — Lance Armstrong is getting back on his bike, determined to win an eighth Tour de France.
Armstrong’s return from cancer to win the Tour a record seven consecutive times made him a hero to cancer patients worldwide and elevated cycling to an unprecedented level in America.
Armstrong, 36, told Vanity Fair in an exclusive interview posted on its Web site Tuesday that he was inspired to return after finishing second last month in the Leadville 100, a lung-searing 100-mile mountain-bike race through the Rocky Mountains.
“This kind of obscure bike race totally kick-started my engine,” he told the magazine. “I’m going to try and win an eighth Tour de France.”
Armstrong’s comeback trail might bring him through the Bay Area.
The cycling journal VeloNews reported on its Web site that Armstrong will compete with the Astana team in the Tour de France and four other road races, including the Amgen Tour of California, which winds through the Bay Area in February. The other road races would be Paris-Nice, the Tour de Georgia and the Dauphine-Libere.
In a video statement on his foundation’s Web site, Armstrong said details — such as a team and schedule — will be announced Sept. 24 at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City.
“I am happy to announce that after talking with my children, my family and my closest friends, I have decided to return to professional cycling in order to raise awareness of the
global cancer burden,” Armstrong said in a statement released to the Associated Press. “This year alone, nearly 8 million people will die of cancer worldwide. … It’s now time to address cancer on a global level.”
But there are no guarantees Astana will be allowed to race in the 2009 Tour de France. Race officials kept the team out of the 2008 race because of previous doping violations.
If Armstrong and his team aren’t invited in 2009, he plans to appeal directly to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
“I’ve already put a call in to him,” he told Vanity Fair.
In the Vanity Fair interview, Armstrong told the magazine he is 100 percent sure he will compete in the Tour next summer.
“I think it’s great,” said longtime teammate George Hincapie, who added he spoke with Armstrong on Tuesday morning. “Like I said earlier today, without Lance half the teams in this race probably wouldn’t be around. He’s done more than anyone for the sport, especially in America and around the world.”
Armstrong noted in the magazine interview that other athletes in his age range are competing at a high level, specifically 41-year-old Olympic medalist swimmer Dara Torres and 38-year-old Olympic women’s marathon champion Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania.
“Older athletes are performing well,” he said. “Ask serious sports physiologists and they’ll tell you age is a wives’ tale.”
Age might be an issue for Armstrong in the Tour de France. Only one rider older than 34 has won the Tour — 36-year-old Firmin Lambot in 1922.
The sport has missed Armstrong’s star power, though skeptics refuse to believe he could win seven Tours without the help of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong has been in several public spats with officials at the World Anti-Doping Agency.
“There’s this perception in cycling that this generation is now the cleanest generation we’ve had in decades, if not forever,” Armstrong told Vanity Fair. “And the generation that I raced with was the dirty generation.”
Although many riders were caught doping, Armstrong never tested positive and always has maintained he was a clean rider, using hundreds of passed drug tests during his career as proof.
With his riveting victories over cancer and opponents on the bike, to his work for cancer awareness and gossip-page romances, Armstrong has become a modern-day American icon.
He was an established sprint champion when he was diagnosed in 1996 with testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. Doctors gave him less than a 50 percent chance of survival.
Surgery — he has a half-moon scar on his head from the brain operation — and brutal cycles of chemotherapy saved his life. From there, it was determination and powerful self-discipline that led him back to the bike.
His stunning win at the 1999 Tour de France was just the start. He went from bring a sprinter to a technical expert who could climb mountains at speeds that punished other riders.
Armstrong’s goal every year was to win the Tour de France, the sport’s biggest race, and he dominated the Pyrenees and Alps like no other rider ever had.
His Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer awareness, but his social life has done just as much to keep him in the spotlight.
After his divorce from Kristin, the mother of his three children, Armstrong has had high-profile relationships with rocker Sheryl Crow, fashion designer Tory Burch and most recently, actor Kate Hudson.
Associated Press Writer Jerome Pugmire in Paris contributed to this report.