Lance Armstrong WILL race 2009 Tour de France
Will he? Won't he… Of course he will
The will he/won't he saga of whether Lance Armstrong the world's most famous cyclist will compete in next year's Tour de France – the world's biggest race – was finally ended yesterday when Armstrong announced his intention to attempt the Tour/Giro double for the first time in his career. Did anyone really think this wasn't going to happen?
Speaking from his Astana team's training camp in Tenerife Armstrong told his website "I'm committed to riding for the best guy," he also acknowledged the taxing schedule could leave him riding in a supporting role in France.
"We'll abide by the same code that I do: cycling is team sport, while we'd all like to win." he told the Associated Press (AP).
Significantly Alberto Contador, the winner of the 2007 Tour and the 2008 Giro and Vuelta is not competing in the Italian race so that he can focus on regaining the Tour crown he was prevented from defending in 2008 when Astana were barred from the race.
Even for a man of Armstrong's phenomenal achievements taking on a fresh and focused Contador after riding the Giro is likely to be a challenge too far. Although Armstrong says his motivation levels are as high as when preparing for his first Tour win he has also been careful to try to rein in public expectations.
Armstrong's comeback is dedicated to raising cancer awareness and he told his site:
"I'm happy with the record (seven wins). I'm training hard and trying to be as competitive as possible," he said. "The main objective is the message of the foundation. That's the first priority and if we ride moderately well, it helps get the message out."
Contacted by AP French anti-doping agency chief Pierre Bordry would only say "he will treated like everyone else" when it comes to drug testing.
Last week Armstrong stopped over in Paris en-route to the Astana training camp in Tenerife at the time suggestions that he was meeting with Tour bosses were dismissed – now those suggestions look less fanciful. While in France Armstrong played down his earlier comments regarding his fears for his safety while riding the Tour and while those fears are probably realistic, he received more than one death threat during his domination of the race – including one accompanied by live ammunition – it certainly didn't stop him then and it won't stop him in 2009 either.