Armstrong to train with Discovery this winter
PARIS ” Lance Armstrong plans to train with his team this winter, increasing speculation he will end his retirement and attempt an eighth straight Tour de France win.
“It’s definitely an open possibility, I know he is on the bike,” Discovery Channel team director Johan Bruyneel told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday.
“He absolutely wants to be part of the training camp in December and wants to get fit to compete with the guys there,” Bruyneel said, adding that Armstrong can decide to return as late as February.
When Armstrong retired in July after his seventh straight Tour win, Bruyneel had to decide whether to recruit a new team leader. He opted not to do so, suggesting the door may have been kept open for the Texan.
“We didn’t really look for somebody to replace him,” Bruyneel said. “For one there is nobody, not a strong leader like he was. Without him we have a very good team … but not the favorites.”
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The Amaury Sport Organization, which organizes the Tour, would not comment on the speculation.
“We will express ourselves only if and when he decides to come out of retirement,” spokesman Christophe Marchadier said. “There is nothing to stop him coming back on the Tour as a professional cyclist.”
Armstrong, who turns 34 later this month, won this year’s Tour by a comfortable margin ” 4 minutes, 40 seconds ahead of Italian Ivan Basso and 6:21 ahead of Jan Ullrich of Germany.
“I’m sure he could win (another Tour),” Bruyneel said. “The way he won this year … everything pretty much under control and he never showed any weakness. He has another Tour in his legs yet.”
Armstrong, who announced his engagement Monday to rock singer Sheryl Crow, issued a statement Tuesday confirming that he’s considering a comeback in part to rankle French media.
On Aug. 23, sports daily L’Equipe, which is owned by the Tour organizer, reported it had evidence that six of Armstrong’s urine samples from the 1999 Tour tested positive last year for the blood booster EPO. The substance was banned in 1999, but there was no reliable test at the time.
“I think he’s been very offended,” Bruyneel said. “If you know him he doesn’t need a lot to find some motivation. I think it woke up the competitive side of him.”
Should Armstrong return, the media scrutiny surrounding him would be intense and he would likely receive a hostile reception from the French public.
“He proved in the past that he can deal with that. He is at his maximum under pressure,” Bruyneel said. “Physically and mentally he can deal with a lot.”
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