After a few days of viral rumors, Lance Armstrong announced that the rumors were indeed true, that he wanted to make a comeback to racing and win an eighth Tour de France (along with racing several other races next year).
Of course, as the owner of a bicycle tour company that takes people to ride part of and experience the Tour de France, I was elated to hear this news! Once Lance disappeared from the cycling scene, my inquiries for my TDF tours took a nosedive, and I think this could bring a lot more people back to France. The above photo I took on the Col de la Croix Fry in 2004, when his key domestique was Floyd Landis (in front) and his two biggest rivals, Ulrich and Basso were salivating right behind him on the climb. We were 1 km from the top of the climb in this photo, and Lance took off and won the stage not far after the descent from this mountain.
But aside from my ulterior, purely business motives, the other part of me was thinking that I’m not so sure it would be a good idea for him to un-retire. I mean, there are a lot of people waiting to re-unleash their doping accusations of him. The fact remains that of the last 2 Tours that he won, many of the racers who placed 2nd through 10th are gone, ejected from cycling from failed doping tests. Landis, Basso, Ulrich, Vinokourov, etc. The fact that Lance never failed a doping test hasn’t deterred his detractors.
I was also one of those who really enjoyed this year’s Tour de France and the emergence of some new faces and names, and am excited for the opportunity open to them next year. Vande Velde, the Schleck brothers Andy and Frank, Kim Kirchen, Bernard Kohl, and more. (Cadel Evans is not among my favorites so I didn’t include him, although he’ll probably do well). Lance’s presence takes away a little bit from their opportunities, but I guess competition is competition!
It will be interesting to see what happens if Lance is on the same team (Team Astana, managed by Lance’s team manager from US Postal and Discovery teams) as Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer. The latter two cyclists were the 1st and 3rd place winners from 2007, and they couldn’t race in 2008 when their team Astana was barred from the Tour this year. Astana should be allowed in 2009, and Contador will want a shot at being a team leader again, as will Leipheimer, and with Lance on their team, the chances are slim – they might have to jump ship to get their opportunity.
However, any doubts that I had about Lance’s return were dispelled after I read the Vanity Fair interview. It’s quite long, but it really describes Lance’s reasoning quite convincingly. And I like it! I’m sold, and I’ll be supporting him next year. I’ll even pull out my yellow bracelets again!
So here’s to Lance returning to the Tour de France next year!
And if you ever had an inkling of desire to come watch the Tour and ride some of the famous cols in France, then email to get on my waiting list NOW, because I have a feeling this tour will sell out quickly! We’ll be going to the Alpes and the Pyrenees. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, even if it’s just the seed of an idea in your head…
ps here’s an article from VeloNews saying that Christian Prudhomme, race director of the Tour de France, welcomes Lance to race in next year’s Tour, so that barrier is out of the way.