Armstrong rides again? Maybe so
With the Pyrenees behind him but the toughest rides ahead, Lance Armstrong is already talking about another Tour de France run next year.
The Texan, coming out of a 3 1/2 -year retirement, was still in third place after Sunday’s ninth stage. Astana teammate Alberto Contador stayed in second with about a third of the race over, and Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy held the yellow jersey a third day.
Armstrong, 37, rode deliberately during the 100-mile leg that was won by France’s Pierrick Fedrigo and took cyclists from Saint-Gaudens to Tarbes and through the Catholic shrine town of Lourdes.
“Today was pretty controlled,” Armstrong said, “although it’s never easy. It was very hot. . . . We [Astana] just sat there and kind of rode our race.”
The seven-time champion’s appetite for competition clearly is not satisfied. After the day’s racing, he was asked on French television if this would be his last year in cycling’s premier race.
“Probably not,” he said. “Maybe one more Tour.”
Armstrong, who is riding for Astana without salary this year, has previously hinted he might launch his own team next season. When Astana was hit by financial trouble this year and faced the prospect of being thrown out of the ProTour, Armstrong said he could take over the team with the backing of U.S. sponsors.
He now seems a lot further along from his remarks last year when he said the thrust of his return to cycling was to promote awareness of cancer, which almost took his life.
Armstrong’s legs have proved resilient, his racing savvy impressive. He also has responded to a challenge from one of the sport’s brightest lights -- 2007 Tour winner Contador. Their rivalry within Astana is now in the open.
“The honest truth is that there is a little tension,” Armstrong said in his most explicit comments yet that teamwork may be taking a back seat to individual ambitions.
Quote of the day: “I’m not going to see him in the yellow jersey. I don’t think so. I think it would have been something very special for him to have the yellow jersey, but I think he missed it. He missed the opportunity.” -- Saxo Bank team director Bjarne Riis, about Armstrong’s pursuit of an eighth Tour de France title.
Today: Riders get a rest day in Limoges. Tuesday’s 10th stage is a 120.9-mile ride from Limoges to Issoudun, which should favor sprinters.
STAGE 9 RESULTS
Pierrick Fedrigo, France
Franco Pellizotti, Italy
Oscar Freire, Spain
Sergei Ivanov, Russia
Peter Velits, Slovakia
Rinaldo Nocentini, Italy
Alberto Contador, Spain
Lance Armstrong, United States
Levi Leipheimer, United States
Bradley Wiggins, Britain