Wednesday, September 10, 2008
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's profile to an unprecedented level in America.
The 36-year-old Armstrong told Vanity Fair in an exclusive interview posted on its Web site yesterday 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 Colorado Rockies.
"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."
The sport and particularly the Tour have missed his star power, even though skeptics refused to believe he could win seven Tours without the help of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
The 2009 Tour "is the intention," Armstrong's spokesman Mark Higgins told the Associated Press, "but we've got some homework to do over there."
Tour director Christian Prudhomme did not return messages seeking comment on Armstrong's decision. His staff said he would not comment before this morning, if at all.
Armstrong's close friend and longtime team director, Johan Bruyneel, now with team Astana, sent a text message to an AP reporter in Paris saying he did not want to comment now.
In a video statement on his foundation's Web site, Armstrong said details -- such as a team and schedule -- will be announced Sept. 24.
"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 eight million people will die of cancer worldwide. . . . It's now time to address cancer on a global level."
In the Vanity Fair interview, Armstrong told the magazine he's 100 percent sure he's going to compete in the Tour next summer.
"We're not going to try to win second place," Bill Stapleton, Armstrong's lawyer and longtime confidant, told the AP.
"I think it's great," said longtime teammate George Hincapie, who added he spoke to Armstrong yesterday 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.
"On a personal note, I like that he's going to be back in the peloton. He's a great friend of mine, and I also think for the sport it's good, too."