It started as a rumour on the internet and, for several days, it seemed the most outlandish of rumours at that.
But Lance Armstrong has today confirmed he will be making a return to professional cycling in 2009. Watch his statement on his website. Yes, it really is him.
The seven-time Tour de France champion retired after his seventh win in 2005. Since quitting cycling he’s done some marathon running and recently came second in the Leadville 100 mountain bike event in Colorado.
In order to take part in the Leadville, Armstrong re-registered with the US Anti-Doping Agency’s testing programme, which also fuelled speculation he was planning a comeback on the road.
The rumour said Armstrong, who turns 37 later this month, would ride five events in 2009, including the Tour de France.
In his statement, posted on his website today, he says: “After long talks with my kids, the rest of my family and a close group of friends, I have decided to return to professional cycling in 2009. The reason for this is to launch an international cancer strategy, based on the fact that we lose more than eight million people around the world to this disease.
“I will announce the entire strategy and all the plans for the comeback on September 24 at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City.”
Armstrong won the Tour from 1999 to 2005 riding for US Postal Service, which became Discovery Channel. That team was managed by Johan Bruyneel, now the boss of the Astana team.
Already it appears Astana is the most likely team Armstrong will ride for. Astana was barred from the 2008 Tour de France after Alexandre Vinokourov’s positive dope tests in the 2006 race.
Now we await for the reaction from professional cycling, which has changed a lot since Armstrong’s reign.
Announcing a comeback on a video clip that looks like he’s filmed it himself with a camcorder held at arm’s length in a hotel room and competing in the Tour de France four years after his last competitive road race are two very, very different things.
It has to be said, the usually bullish Armstrong looks peculiarly subdued in his video message to the world.
Is this for real? Or is it a well-meaning wind-up? Only time will tell if this is a genuine bid for a return or a smart attempt to gain publicity for his cancer charity work.
Armstrong: no smoke without fire?