Armstrong to wed…and ride ’06 Tour?

Perhaps L'Equipe newspaper should have considered whether it wanted Lance Armstrong to win an eighth

Perhaps L’Equipe newspaper should have considered whether it wanted Lance Armstrong to win an eighth

PIC BY TIM DE WAELE Lance Armstrong has sensationally dropped hints that he may ride the 2006 Tour de France. Armstrong told the Austin American Statesman that a comeback would be the “best way to piss the French off” after L’Equipe’s recent allegations that the Texan cheated his way to victory in the first of his seven Tour wins in 1999. Armstrong, who vehemently denies the allegations, told the Statesman on Monday that he had been “exercising every day” ever since L’Equipe claimed two weeks ago that the American had used EPO in 1999. The former Discovery Channel rider, who will turn 34 on September 18, said that the idea of resuming his career had not crossed his mind until L’Equipe published its report. Speaking to, Discovery Channel manager Johan Bruyneel confirmed that Armstrong had recently recommenced training after admitting to boredom. “You know, we had some retirement parties in Nice after the Tour and then Lance went back to the States and took it easy for a few weeks. Then he called me three weeks later and said ‘I’m back on the bike… I’m getting bored and missing the exercise, the riding'”, Bruyneel said. Far from dismissing the Statesman report, Bruyneel confirmed that Armstrong may be tempted back to the sport. “It’s not impossible,” he said. The early stages of Armstrong’s retirement are proving to be no less eventful than his 13 years in the pro peloton. Also on Monday, the American revealed that he had proposed marriage to long-term girlfriend Sheryl Crow and that he and the Missouri songstress were now engaged. Armstrong popped the question last Wednesday in Sun Valley, Idaho. “We’ve told family and friends, stuff like that,” he told the Statesman. Armstrong added that he discussed the engagement with his three children before he asked Crow. Had he waited a further couple of weeks, Armstrong could have also sought the counsel of the Dalai Lama, whom he is due to meet in Idaho in the coming days, or the showbusiness equivalent, Oprah Winfrey. Armstrong is set for what is now sure to be an intriguing second appearance on Winfrey’s show on Wednesday. – On a less light-hearted note for the record-breaking Tour star, World Anti-doping Agency chief Dick Pound opined yesterday that there was “a very high probability of doping” having examined the documents which formed the basis of the L’Equipe scoop. Pound stressed, however, that he was refering to the six anonymous tests performed in 1999 which so far only L’Equipe has attributed to Armstrong. Pound said that he would welcome DNA tests to establish whether the samples had indeed been provided by Armstrong. In the interview with German online newspaper Netzeitung, the Canadian drugs czar said that he was eagerly waiting for the UCI to report the conclusions of their inquiry into L’Equipe’s claims. UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani told procycling this morning that the UCI is likely make its reaction known before the weekend. Carpani would not comment on what the nature of this reaction was likely to be, nor on how the UCI is investigating L’Equipe’s allegations. Refering to the French newspaper’s assertion that EPO was found in the urine samples of up to six other riders in 1999, Pound said: “If the UCI reveals that a number of star riders tested positive a year after the Festina scandal in 1998, that proves that cycling has a very serious problem and that the UCI hasn’t been able to resolve that problem.”