Four months and counting. Lance Armstrong?s comeback will start on January 18 at the Tour Down Under, according to the man himself.

Speaking to a large audience at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, and an even bigger audience watching via the internet, Armstrong gave a few more details on what has already turned in to the story of 2009.

“I cannot guarantee an eighth tour victory, but I can guarantee you that the Armstrong message will touch all of society,? Armstrong said of his much publicised comeback to professional cycling.

As previously announced, the comeback is part of Armstrong?s fight against cancer, the disease that almost cost the American his life in 1996. ?By racing the bicycle all over the world, beginning in Australia, ending in France, it’s the best way, the best way to get the word out. While my intention is to train and compete as fiercely as I always have, this time I will gauge victory by how much progress we make against cancer, a disease that will claim eight million lives this year alone.

?Our campaign will appeal to every person affected by cancer as well as their nations’ leaders and we intend to visit, race and train in those countries that join our cause. We will reach out to those who suffer in silence and connect them with a community of cancer survivors to give them strength and hope.?

So the Tour Down Under will get the rider to at last turn their race in to a major event, while the Tour de France will get the rider that they thought they?d seen the back of.

Armstrong confirmed that he would ride with Astana next year, saying; “I can’t imagine riding against or without Johan [Bruyneel]. My first race will be in Australia at the Tour Down Under. The only three races that I can tell you I will be doing for sure is the Tour Down Under, the Tour de France and the Leadville 100. But they don’t know that yet!”

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE KIDS

Stood on the stage with Armstrong was young American cyclist Taylor Phinney who will be the cornerstone of a new American team. “Taylor is the future of American cycling,” Armstrong said of the Garmin-Chipotle rider who finished seventh in the individual pursuit at the Olympic Games.

“Not only did we want to have the Livestrong Global campaign, we wanted to have a development component. And I feel by building a team around Taylor and by having Axel Merckx as director of the team, this is what our sport needs.

“It’s one thing to have a professional team and try and win big events, but I know the perspective as someone who owns different parts of the industry and I think it’s critical we develop the young cyclists of the United States.”

Armstrong also introduced Don Catlin, the man who Armstrong hopes will prove beyond all doubt that he is riding clean. “When I began to think about coming back, I knew, because there had been questions in the past, that there would be questions about performance.

“People will question a good performances. I don’t know if I can perform well, but in the off chance that I do perform well I didn’t want to leave any doubt, and so I reached out to Don and asked him to oversee this program and to be completely independent.

“He will be completely removed from me [and] I will do whatever he wants me to do. I think it’s a landmark program. I think it’s the first time an athlete can be totally validated. In my opinion, Don is beyond reproach. He’s one of the foremost researchers in the anti-doping movement.

“I’ve told Don, I have myself, I have my bike and I have my cause. You come whenever and however you want to come in order to validate these performances.”

Armstrong also unveiled the Livestrong Global Cancer Awareness Campaign before the likes of Bill Clinton and Bono from U2. The initial Livestrong Global Cancer Summit is scheduled for July 28 in Paris.

Whether or not Big Tex will attend that conference in his favoured yellow jersey we?ll have to wait and see.

EXTERNAL LINKS

Watch a video of Lance Armstrong’s speech here>>

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