The whole cycling community is buzzing with the recent revelation that seven-time Tour de France champion and living cycling legend Lance Armstrong is reportedly coming out of retirement to re-join his buddies in the European pro peloton. Forget the freefall in the US and world economic markets, this is big news. The 37-year old Texan traded his cleats for running shoes after the end of the 2005 Tour, but after a three-year hiatus this comeback looks to be for real.
Rumours are that Lance's strong showing in the recent Leadville 100 MTB race re-kindled his competitive fire. Armstrong has been using Aspen as his training base and has just recently purchased a place there. Competing in several local and regional races, including the 12-Hour of Snowmass which he won with his three-man team, those who have seen him on the bike say he is as determined as ever to make his return to two wheels a successful one. Lance has been linked to Team Astana being run by the man who directed his seven Tour wins, Johan Bruyneel, though he has scheduled a September 24th press conference to make his plans public.
The big question is at age 37, can the Texas Tornado still be competitive in the European pro ranks? Another question is, after seven Tour de France victories, what does Lance have left to prove on the bike? The question on fitness is really only one that Lance can answer. We all age differently and while no one has ever won the Tour at age 37 (Firmin Lambot won the Tour at age 36 way back in 1922) Lance was the first rider to win the Tour six and seven times and you don't accomplish that without a lot of drive and ambition to complement one's fitness.
When the rumours of Lance's comeback first surfaced about a month ago from deep within the halls of Active.com, speculation was that Armstrong's return would focus on the aspects of cycling, other than the Tour, that the former Discovery Channel rider had not yet conquered. Could Lance become the first American to win the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix the two most revered one-day Classics? Armstrong has shown that he can be competitive in the big one-day races having won the Fleche Wallone and come second in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Amstel Gold, and the Championships of Zurich.
Lance says that one of his major motivations for returning is to spread the word, globally, about cancer. But, if he ends up on Team Astana he will have to contend with Alberto Contador who is on form to win the Vuelta which would give him the trifecta of the three grand tours after his 2007 Tour and 2008 Giro wins.
So, what do you all think about Lance's return to cycling? After having gone out on such a high note in 2005 is this a no-win situation or is there an upside which most cycling aficionados seem to be missing?
ps - whatever the reason, it will be great to have Lance back in cycling. He is a great ambassador for the sport. I, for one, would love to see him go back to his winning ways.