'Lance to quit' frenzy takes hold

Are we reaching the end of a great cycling era? All will be revealed at 8.30pm BST when Lance Armstr

Are we reaching the end of a great cycling era? All will be revealed at 8.30pm BST when Lance Armstr

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM

He is still keeping those who know him well guessing but we will find out what the future holds today, at 3.30pm Georgia time, when Lance Armstrong gives a long-awaited press conference on the eve of the 2005 Tour of Georgia. The world's media will be in attendance - as will procycling of course - and what the 33 year old says is expected to usher in the end of an extraordinary and transformative period in professional racing.

Speculation is rife - everybody is talking about what the six-time Tour de France winner will say (which may well have been his intention all along). Will he quit on the spot? Will he announce that he will quit in Paris at the end of the Tour? Will he announce a date for marrying Sheryl? Will he announce that next year he will only race in the States? Or will he just tell us about a new time trialling position...?

procycling's preferred theory at the moment is that he will reveal that he is going to quit the European scene after the 2005 Tour, but that he will honour his two-year deal with Discovery by riding a reduced Stateside programme in 2006, incorporating the Tours of California and Georgia, and the rumoured new stage race in the Carolinas.

That seems to be the win-win option; he will bid au revoir to Europe and leave behind his ongoing fractious relationship with the European media; he will reduce his trans-Atlantic air miles; he will spend more time with Sheryl and his kids and, key to the plan, honour his commitment to his sponsor and his team.

The six-time Tour winner has recently taken to baiting his doubters with those few words: "What ya gonna do when I'm gone...?" The answer is, of course, that life and road racing will go on. Somehow, we will struggle through. For a while it won't be the same - just as the retirements of Merckx, Hinault and Indurain left a vacuum.

But the racing calendar continues and younger talents are always coming through. There will be other great champions, but it is debatable whether there will ever be another Armstrong.

From supporters to sceptics, there is no doubt that Armstrong will be missed. He has been a force of nature, sometimes destructive and sometimes inspirational, combining mind games and brute force to achieve his goals. He has switched on a generation of Americans to the thrills of European racing. No, it hasn't always been pretty but it has always been gripping; and, most of all, it has never been boring.

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