Lance Armstrong Joins Team Astana
Team Astana's General Manager Johan Bruyneel earlier today confirmed Lance Armstrong’s announcement to make his professional cycling comeback with Team Astana. Armstrong, who retired in 2005 after recording history with his seventh Tour de France title (all together with Bruyneel), has devoted the last three years to the fight against cancer, an illness which temporarily halted his cycling career in 1996. Armstrong now rejoins Bruyneel and Team Astana in an effort to once again return as a champion cyclist and more importantly raise the awareness of the global cancer burden.
Bruyneel is excited and supportive about Armstrong’s return to the sport. “In 1998, Lance asked me to direct his US Postal Service Team and now, ten years later, Lance has asked to make his comeback with Team Astana. I am truly honored and very much looking forward to closely working with him again. What we saw from 1999 to 2005 was arguably the most exciting time in professional cycling and I know Lance will bring the same level of charisma, passion and influence to the team, sport and global cancer community.” Bruyneel went on to continue, “Our Kazakh sponsors are extremely pleased with Lance’s decision. A major goal of this sponsorship is to develop the best generation of Kazakh cyclists and I can’t think of a better rider to learn from than Lance. We know he has all the tools and characteristics of a true champion.”
Alberto Contador, who recently became one of few to have won all three Grand Tours (Tour de France – 2007, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España – 2008), optimistically believes that Armstrong’s presence on the team will have a positive effect. “When you look at professional sports, it’s very common to have two or even three champions on one team. Right now people are looking to make up controversy, but honestly I have no ill-will towards Lance. I identify with his passion for the sport. He has certainly been a role model for me and others throughout the world and I imagine having him on Team Astana will only motivate me further. Of course, my objectives for the 2009 season are clear. With Lance and the Team Direction we will soon have to talk about it.”
Levi Leipheimer, currently preparing in Varese for tomorrow’s 2008 World Championships Time Trial, believes riding with Armstrong for two seasons at the US Postal Service Team was instrumental in his development. “I give a lot of credit to Lance and Johan for my success. Early in my career, I had a great opportunity to directly learn from Lance and I’m excited to see him return to the team; not only personally, but also for the sport and cancer community.” Leipheimer added that he doesn’t see many internal problems with Lance’s arrival. “There are already great leaders on this team and we have seen success, both individually and as a team. Alberto and I have finished on grand tour podiums together and I’m confident that Lance will only continue to push us to be better riders and teammates.”
Bruyneel and Armstrong will meet in the next few weeks to discuss the 2009 schedule. As of today, Armstrong plans to ride in the 2009 Tour Down Under and the 2009 Tour de France.