When Lance Armstrong announced that he was to return to racing at the Tour Down Under in January 2009 there seemed little that could stop the Texan’s comeback – until the UCI stepped in.

Following Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) regulations, riders returning to competition must register their intention to race six months before they compete – and Armstrong only registered on August 1 2008. This means that he may not be allowed to participate in the Australian stage race which starts on January 21, 2009.

The six month rule exists so that riders can be tested for illegal performance-enhancing substances in out-of-competition tests, plus they must register their whereabouts in order to be available for testing at any time.

According to news agency AFP, the seven-times Tour de France winner is using Mario Cipollini’s return to racing at this year’s Tour of California as an example of when leniency has been shown.

“We’re not asking for any exception, but they don’t always apply this rule,” said Armstrong. “This rule was not applied to that. It’s a tricky situation. You’re talking about a few days overlap.”

If Armstrong cannot race in the Tour Down Under, then he will continue with his racing and training schedule and hinted that he would like to ride the Tour of Italy for the first time in his life.

“Not participating in the Giro was a regret of mine,” said Armstrong. “I would love to try that, with their 100th year anniversary.”

Armstrong has already announced a short list of race dates and said that he will be working with his former US Postal and Discovery Channel team director Johan Bruyneel at the Astana squad. His main aim for 2009 is to ride the Tour de France – and, of course, to take his Livestrong cancer initiative to a global audience.

Last week Armstrong rode his first bike race since announcing his proposed comeback to top-level road racing. He came 22nd at the Cross Vegas cyclo-cross event in front of a crowd of 10,000 spectators.

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