Updated at 6:45 p.m. on Sept. 8It is quite reasonable that the 2009 Tour de France could feature that last two Americans to win the event... and no, we aren't talking about Greg LeMond.
Word is tricking out after a story in VeloNews that seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong will return to competitive cycling in 2009. According to the report, Armstrong will join Team Astana -- once home to suspended/retired rider Alexandre Vinokourov -- where he will accept no salary or bonuses and will post results of blood and urine doping tests online.
Armstrong will also reunite with former US Postal and Team Discovery director, Johan Bruyneel.
According to reports, the official return will be announced in a lengthy interview with Vanity Fair. Additionally, Armstrong will ride in four events in 2009 -- the Amgen Tour of California, Paris-Nice, the Tour de Georgia, the Dauphine-Libere -- before the Tour de France in July.
Sources close to Armstrong did not return e-mails or calls for comment.
Nevertheless, upon retiring from competitive riding, Armstrong worked exclusively for his cancer research group. He also ran three marathons (two NYC and Boston) and was slated to run the Chicago Marathon next month.
There was no real hint, at least publicly, that Armstrong was contemplating a comeback, a notion enhanced by comments during the U.S. television broadcast final stage of the 2007 Tour de France when the ex-champion claimed he did not miss the grind of racing. What he missed the most, he said, was being “super fit” and the training lifestyle, which he compared to being monastic in that all one did was ride, eat and sleep.
However, last month Armstrong raced in the Leadville 100, a particularly grueling mountain bike race, and finished second. Coincidentally, Armstrong's former US Postal teammate Floyd Landis finished second in the Leadville 100 in 2007.
Could both riders be back in France in 2009?
Landis' suspension from the contested doping test after winning the 2006 Tour de France will expire in early '09. In the past Landis has expressed an interest in a return to competitive riding and there have been rumors about him joining the upstart team, Rock Racing.
Whether this means both men will be in France in 2009 remains to be seen.
Update:According to a report from The Associated Press, a spokesman from Team Astana claimed they did not "have plans for" Armstrong to join the team. Stay tuned.