Lance Armstrong will make his return to triathlon this Saturday at the US Xterra National Championships at the Snowbasin Resort near Ogden, Utah, after years of speculation about him re-entering the sport.
The seven-time Tour de France winner, who has more than 3 million followers on Twitter, confirmed the news with a tweet on September 15: “Looking fwd to my first tri in 20+ yrs. @XTERRAoffroad in Ogden, UT. See you all there!”
He also told the Associated Press: “It seemed like a fun time and the training has been going very well”. He added: “I’ll go out there and have a good time and see how it goes.” But he seemed coy about his chances. “I go in with no grand expectations”, he said.
Armstrong was one of the first to recce the off-road triathlon’s new bike course. In a press release from Xterra, Steve Andrus, the Snowbasin Resort sport event operations director who showed Armstrong around, said: “We had literally just got clearance and made the decision to use the Sardine Peak trail for the USA course the day before Armstrong”.
A local age-group competitor, Josh Mortensen from Eden, Utah joined Lance and 1996 Xterra World Champion Jimmy Riccitello for the race pre-ride. He said: “That was a cool experience. He was very inquisitive, wanted to know everything from tire choices to weather possibilities, elevation, trail conditions, other competitors, everything you could think of”. He added: “It was pretty humbling to have one of the best cyclists to ever walk the planet ask me questions like that, and then he would just take off … man can he haul.”
“Lance coming to Xterra is huge,” said Xterra Managing Director Dave Nicholas. He added: “In our kinds of sports he is an icon. We’re flattered he chose us”, but warned the Texan “if he thinks it will be easy pickin’s, he is in for a surprise. Our guys will not go silently into the night”.
The former maillot jaune has also been in touch with race the race favourite, four-time Xterra World Champion Conrad ‘The Caveman’ Stoltz, who told Associated Press: “He was talking smack… He was like, ‘Let’s go training, bring it on Caveman!’” He added: “It would be great to have him, good for the sport…If he wants laid-back races for enjoyment, it would be a good match. A lot of people think he’ll do an Ironman, but that’s not fun because you have to do so much training and it’s eight hours of nothing but pain.”
Indeed, most of the near-misses surrounding Armstrong’s return to the sport that started him on the path to seven Tour de France victories has focused on a comeback at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. A Youtube video (posted under his pseudonym Juan Pelota) showed Lance swimming in the seas off Kona, while another much-viewed upload followed his time trial victory over Iroman bike supremo Chris Lieto on the Queen K highway.
At the time, this seemed like the precursor to an official statement of The Boss’s intent to race Ironmans – something that never materialised. So news that Lance is finally returning to triathlon at the XTerra National Championships is a big deal for many in the triathlon community, who will finally get an answer to the question of how a 40-year-old Lance will perform in the multi-sport world.
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