|L. ARMSTRONGSeeks 8th Tour win|
Armstrong into re-cycling
He will unretire, compete in Tour
AUSTIN, Texas - Lance Armstrong is getting back on his bike, determined to win an eighth Tour de France.
Armstrong's return from cancer to win the Tour a record seven consecutive times made him a hero to cancer patients worldwide and elevated cycling to an unprecedented level in America.
The 36-year-old Armstrong told Vanity Fair in an exclusive interview posted on its website yesterday he was inspired to return after finishing second last month in the Leadville 100, a lung-searing 100-mile mountain bike race through the Colorado Rockies.
"This kind of obscure bike race, totally kick-started my engine," he told the magazine. "I'm going to try and win an eighth Tour de France."
The sport and particularly the Tour have missed his star power, even though he has been a controversial figure at times.
The 2009 Tour "is the intention," Armstrong's spokesman Mark Higgins told the Associated Press, "but we've got some homework to do over there."
Tour director Christian Prudhomme did not return messages seeking comment on Armstrong's decision. His staff said he would not comment before this morning, if at all.
Armstrong's close friend and longtime team director, Johan Bruyneel, now with team Astana, sent a text message to an AP reporter in Paris saying he did not want to comment now.
In a video statement on his foundation's website, Armstrong said details - such as a team and schedule - will be announced Sept. 24 in New York.
"I am happy to announce that after talking with my children, my family, and my closest friends, I have decided to return to professional cycling in order to raise awareness of the global cancer burden," Armstrong said in a statement released to the AP. "This year alone, nearly 8 million people will die of cancer worldwide. It's now time to address cancer on a global level."
In the Vanity Fair interview, Armstrong told the magazine he's 100 percent sure he's going to compete in the Tour next summer.
"We're not going to try to win second place," Bill Stapleton, Armstrong's lawyer and longtime confidant, told the AP.
Armstrong noted in the magazine interview that other athletes in his age range are competing at a high level, specifically 41-year-old Olympic medalist swimmer Dara Torres and 38-year-old Olympic women's marathon champion Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania.
Age will be an issue for Armstrong in the Tour de France. He'll be 37 next week, ancient for such a grueling competition. Only one rider older than 34 has ever won the Tour - 36-year-old Firmin Lambot in 1922.
On Monday, the cycling journal VeloNews reported on its website that Armstrong would compete with the Astana team, led by Bruyneel, in the Tour and four other road races.
But there are no guarantees Astana would be allowed to race in the 2009 Tour. Race officials kept the team out of the 2008 Tour because of previous doping violations.
If Armstrong and his team aren't invited in 2009, he plans to appeal directly to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
"I've already put a call in to him," he told Vanity Fair.
Armstrong's return to competition raises the question of whether he risks damaging his athletic legacy.
And his own words likely will cause some to wonder if he'll approach his return with the same steely-eyed determination.
In an interview published in the October issue of Men's Journal, Armstrong said, "I'm glad I'm not cycling anymore. It was fun while it lasted, and I liked it, but I'm so focused on other things now that I never think about it."
He's certainly thinking about it now.
Skeptics questioned whether he was cheating by using performance-enhancing drugs, but although many riders were caught doping, Armstrong never tested positive and always has maintained he was clean, using hundreds of passed drug tests during his career as proof.