Lance Armstrong made an appearance today at the Clinton Global Initiative where, as promised, he filled us in on more details on his return to cycling. Armstrong re-affirmed his commitment to racing again in 2009, and announced that he would be joining Team Astana, just as Velonews reported several weeks back and was later denied by Astana themselves.
Most fans of the sport believed if Lance was going to come back, Astana was where he would end up. The team is managed by Johan Bruyneel, with whom Lance has had a long working relationship. Johan helped Armstrong to win his Yellow Jerseys, and it seemed that the two joining forces again would be a natural fit. Astana also rides Trek bikes, who Armstrong has had a long relationship with as well.
Lance is coming back to raise awareness of cancer on a more global level. His Livestrong campaign has been an enormous success here in the United States, and now he wants to make it even bigger. The question is, how will he do that? Lance is a fan favorite here in the States, where most people adore him, but he’s not as looked upon as favorably abroad, where he may meet resistance to his Livestrong message.
Of course, there is also the question of Alberto Contador, the best rider in the world, who I posted on a few days back. Contador has now won the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and the Vuelta a España, becoming just the fifth rider in history to do so, something Lance hasn’t done. Contador also rides for Astana, and is currently the unquestioned leader of that team. With Armstrong joining the ranks, will they be competing against one another for that leadership role? Who will be the one that gets pushed at the top rider? Will Contador even stay with the team?
Lance says that he’ll begin his comeback by competing in the Tour Down Under, which takes place January 18-25 in Australia. He’ll also be riding in the Tour de France of course, and possibly the Giro as well, setting himself up for an ambitious schedule.
Finally, Lance has hired Don Catlin, an anti-doping researcher, who will head up Armstrong’s independent testing to prove that he is riding clean. There have been doping rumors about Lance since his retirement, and he wants to prove to the world that he is not taking any performance enhancing drugs in his comeback.
Should be interesting to say the least. Lance is off to Interbike in Vegas today and is expected to announce more details tomorrow. There are also rumors that he’ll compete in the Cross Vegas race if he arrives in time today. Cross Vegas is a cyclocross race that is part of the Interbike activities.
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