AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Lance Armstrong is retiring after this year's Tour de France, ending a cycling career in which he inspired millions by overcoming testicular cancer to win his sport's signature event a record six straight times.
Armstrong said he remains "fully committed" to winning his seventh straight Tour de France this year and is driven "by that dream to go out on top. That's a big deal to me."
"It will be the last one, win or lose," the 33-year-old Texan said at a news conference yesterday.
The Tour de France ends July 24.
Armstrong said he began thinking about retirement after his victory last year. Spending a month away from his children recently helped to seal the decision.
"That was much more difficult that it had been before," he said. "They are at a stage now where they change daily, if not hourly. . . . It's time for me to not miss key moments in their lives."
Speculation regarding Armstrong's future had grown in recent months, fueled by the rider's comments that he wanted to spend more time with his three children and step up his efforts in raising awareness and funds for fighting cancer.
"Ultimately, athletes have to retire . . . the body doesn't just keep going and going," Armstrong said.
Still, come next year, Armstrong knows he'll probably want to climb back onto the bike. "I'll definitely have the itch now and again," he said.
Yesterday's announcement came on the eve of Armstrong's defense of his Tour of Georgia championship. The six-day, 648-mile event he uses as a training tool for the Tour de France begins today in Augusta.
Armstrong said the Georgia race could be his last professional competition in America, though he left open the possibility of racing in May at another practice event before the Tour de France.
"If there's a good local race, I'm more than happy to jump in," he said.
Tour of Georgia officials have received more than 500 media credential applications this year, almost twice last year's total. "This is probably the second-biggest media event in Augusta in recent weeks," Armstrong said, referring to the Masters golf tournament, as he greeted reporters.
Armstrong said he decided to make the announcement now so he could "be upfront and honest with the media, the people, the fans, not just here in America and in Europe."
Added Armstrong: "It just seems to me it would be better to announce that and get it out there and let everybody know."
Armstrong said he would remain involved with the Discovery Channel racing team. His new two-year contract to race for the team requires he race just one more Tour de France.
"I was fortunate to win six times. Can I win again this year? I'm not sure, but I'm going to try," he said. "It's my ambition to win and also a little bit of my job to win."