There's been plenty of speculation that Lance Armstrong's return to the pro peloton in 2009 will be with Johan Bruyneel's Team Astana, because it's a foregone conclusion that Bruyneel, who guided Armstrong through Phase Two of his career (and seven Tours de France) would find it most difficult racing against Armstrong.
If Armstrong's September 24th announcement includes plans to race for Bruyneel and Astana, it would mean a mix of old and new: Armstrong has been a Trek-sponsored athlete since 1998, and is a part owner (less than one percent, according to Trek president John Burke) of the Wisconsin bike maker. But, Armstrong has also been a Shimano-sponsored athlete his entire career, so making the switch to SRAM Red and Look Keo pedals would certainly be a big change for the technically meticulous Armstrong. It helps that Astana is sponsored by long-time Armstrong supporter, helmet maker Giro. Riders have individual shoe and optics sponsorship deals, so Armstrong will likely stay true to Nike and Oakley. Astana component provider Bontrager plans to introduce shoes in 2009.
Not much else has changed for Armstrong since retiring in late July 2005. He was involved in launching the new Madone platform in 2007, and continues to ride a Livestrong-branded bike both on the road and dirt. His Mellow Johnny's bike shop in Austin, Texas is filled to the ceilings with Trek, including the bikes ridden by Alberto Contador and George Hincapie during Contador's victorious Tour de France in 2007.
One thing's for certain: anytime Armstrong is involved with an effort of this magnitude, there'll be plenty of behind-the-scenes work to deliver the goods. A visit to Trek's wall of fame in its Waterloo headquarters reflects the evolution of Armstrong's seven Tour-winning machines.
Only time will tell if there'll be an eighth spot filled at the end of next July.