Citing cancer awareness as the motivation for an unlikely return to the sport, Lance Armstrong has confirmed that he will indeed be part of the peloton in 2009. Winning an eighth Tour de France is the goal for the Texan, who turns 37 on September 18th.
"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," he said in a statement released to The Associated Press. "This year alone, nearly eight million people will die of cancer worldwide. ... It's now time to address cancer on a global level."
Don't believe what you're reading? Listen to the the man himself tell it here.
Armstrong retired from the sport on July 24, 2005, the day he won a record seventh consecutive title in the Tour, and said at the time that he was done with professional racing. After running several marathons, he competed in the Leadville 100 mountain bike event in August, placing second there.
Armstrong cited 41-year-old US swimmer Dara Torres's Olympic comeback - she won two silver medals in Beijing - as proof that age was no barrier to an elite sports career.
"Look at the Olympics," he said. "You have a swimmer like Dara Torres. Even in the 50m (freestyle) the 41-year-old mother proved you can do it," he told Vanity Fair magazine. "The woman who won the marathon (Romanian Constantina Tomescu) was 38. Older athletes are performing very well. Ask serious sports physiologists and they'll tell you age is a wives' tale."
According to the AP, Armstrong’s aim will be success in the biggest race in cycling. The Tour "is the intention," his spokesman Mark Higgins said, "but we've got some homework to do over there."
"We're not going to try to win second place," said Bill Stapleton, Armstrong’s lawyer.
Armstrong, who won seven consecutive Tour de France titles between 1999 and 2005, has vigorously denied doping accusations that have dogged him even into retirement, and told Vanity Fair that in his comeback he plans to address the issue of doping head-on by submitting to a rigorous testing regime.
"We're going to be completely transparent and open with the press," Armstrong said. "So there is a nice element here where I can come with a completely comprehensive program and there will be no way to cheat."
Higgins said that the team he will ride with remains undecided, but Johan Bruyneel has said that if Armstrong does decide to come back, it will most likely be with Astana. Armstrong said he would discuss his plans for competition in 2009 on September 24 in New York City.
Here's what former teammates, current stars of the peloton and team directors think of Armstrong's return.
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