Armstrong: Return is a risk

Armstrong: Return is a risk

Lance Armstrong admits he is taking a big risk by returning to cycling to go for an eighth Tour de France win but saw nothing to put him off in this year's race.

The American has confirmed he will be returning to the sport next year and will be seeking an entry into the 2009 Tour as a member of the Astana team.

The 37-year-old, who retired in 2005 following his seventh consecutive victory in Le Tour, will resume his road-racing career primarily to raise awareness of cancer issues through his 'Livestrong' programme and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Buoyed by his performance in this summer's Leadville 100 mountain-bike race in Colorado - an event where he finished second - Armstrong feels he is mentally up to the task, although he is prepared for the worst.

When asked what his main fear was ahead of his return, he said: "Perhaps the interruption and the effect on my body, which - for three years - has forgotten how to do certain things.

"Of course I haven't stopped exercising; I run and swim a lot. But this is only exercise.

"And then I am 37. There are little things that remind me of that every day.

"The good thing is that I am fresh mentally. When my body says: 'Stop!', my head says: 'Continue!'.

"I don't really know what to expect and I am taking a risk. But I am confident."

Having watched this year's Tour, won by Spanish rider Carlos Sastre, Armstrong believes he has nothing to fear.

"I followed the race and I noted some performances, for example the time of the Alpe d'Huez climb," he added.

"Moreover, I analysed the style of the race, which wasn't very aggressive, and I didn't see many attacks.

"OK, it isn't sat in front of a TV screen that you can really get a feel for a race. And it wouldn't be very graceful of me to be critical if I wasn't there myself.

"But these are impressions I have, not facts."

In an age of doping scandals that have rocked the sport over the past few years, many sceptics still doubt that Armstrong was clean when he won his seven Tours.

However, he has never been found to be cheating and he has unveiled his own personal programme, which has seen him recruit leading anti-doping scientist Don Catlin, to conduct random testing in addition to official doping controls.

Armstrong is happy to be as open as ever when it comes to the issue of doping.

"There will always be someone, a journalist or a manager or a rider or an organiser, who will doubt me," he added in an interview with French daily L'Equipe.

"I understand but it annoys me. I will do as I did before - I have nothing to hide.

"And never will I insinuate that I am clean and others are dirty. I will get back on my bike and work hard.

"When I read the books, I see 'Lance Armstrong - seven Tours'. I am assured of all these victories and I am proud of that."

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