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Armstrong to Make Comeback with Team Astana
    2008-09-25 09:13:11     Reuters

Cyclist Lance Armstrong answers a question at a news conference as young rider Tayler Phinney (R) listens during the Clinton Global Initiative, in New York on Wednesday, September 24, 2008. [Photo: Reuters]

Lance Armstrong will return to competitive cycling with Team Astana in Australia in January when he begins promoting a global cancer awareness campaign, the seven-time Tour de France winner said on Wednesday.

The 37-year-old American will be reunited at Astana with Johan Bruyneel, who was the Texan's team director for all of his Tour de France victories with the U.S. Postal and Discovery teams from 1999-2005.

"I have decided to race my bicycle again," said Armstrong, a survivor of testicular cancer, as he launched the 'Live Strong Global Awareness Campaign' at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.

Armstrong, who retired after winning the 2005 Tour de France, confirmed he would attempt to add to his record with an eighth Tour next year and said he was keeping his options open about racing beyond 2009.

"I don't want to box myself in here," Armstrong said. "It's open-ended. I see one season but I wouldn't want to rule out a second season. I will take it season by season."

Armstrong said he hoped that 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador would remain with Astana despite reports that the Spaniard was not sure there was room at the top of the team for him and Armstrong.

"Alberto is the best rider on the planet right now and I'm not sure I can ride that fast," Armstrong said.

"If he has other offers ... that's his decision. I would encourage him to give this a chance."

PREMATURE TALK

Contador said talk of any departure was "too premature."

"We first have to see how things are going to evolve in the team, but I think it is a little too soon to speak about leaving the team," Contador told Reuters after arriving at a Madrid hotel where the Spanish cycling team are staying.

"I am going to calmly talk to the team and depending on how it goes, we will see what we do."

Armstrong said he would return at the Tour Down Under, adding that the only other races firmly in his plans are the Tour de France and the Leadville 100, a Colorado mountain race where this summer he rediscovered his urge to compete.

Asked if he could win another Tour de France, Armstrong said: "I honestly don't know. I've been off the bike for three and a half years. I'll be nearly 38 years old at the next Tour de France.

"I will try to be as prepared as possible. I don't know that that equals victory. I have a fair bit of confidence but I don't have that kind of confidence yet."

He said he was interested in possibly adding the Tour of Italy to his schedule. "I never did the Tour of Italy and I'd love to do it, especially this year on its 100-year anniversary."

Armstrong said the Astana team would hire anti-doping expert Don Catlin to supervise a transparent biological monitoring of him that would be made available online throughout his training and racing.

The Texan has been dogged by doping suspicions over the years, although he has vehemently denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs.

"Beyond today I'm not going to tell you how clean I am," he said. "I will ride by bike around the world and Don Catlin will tell you how clean I am."


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