By Bjorn Haake in Vielha
Astana Team Director Johan Bruyneel told Cyclingnews that he is not aware of any comebacks by his former rider Lance Armstrong, who had retired from the sport in 2005, immediately following his record-breaking seventh Tour de France win.
Armstrong is reportedly returning to the peloton to undertake a limited racing schedule for 2009 according to anonymous sources commenting at the Eurobike trade show.
Bruyneel, who used to direct the Discovery Channel Racing Team captained by Armstrong, had heard the comeback rumours, but could not confirm them. "I don't know where the rumours come from. Maybe [they arise] because Lance recently finished second in a 160km mountain bike race? He has been training for it and he is in good shape."
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the camaraderie of a team. Guys like George [Hincapie] and of course Johan were really important parts of the whole day-to- day set up," Armstrong had told Cyclingnews in July.
In August, Armstrong completed the Leadville 100, a 100-mile mountain bike race in Colorado. He finished second behind Dave Wiens.
Since his retirement from professional road racing, Armstrong has completed the New York marathon in both 2006 and 2007. Both years, he recorded times under three hours.
Bruyneel was impressed that his former star has remained competitive, but he wasn't surprised by his solid performances on foot and on a mountain bike.
"Champions are like that, they are always competitive. No matter if it's a game of cards or a tennis match, they always want to win," said Bruyneel. "He is competitive in everything he does, even a bike ride with friends."
Citing an example of the competitive fire that still burns after top racers retire, Bruyneel went on to recall an occasion during which his compatriot Eddy Merckx got mad after losing a football game organized at the time to benefit Bruyneel's recovery from a broken back at the time he was still racing.
Former team-mate Levi Leipheimer, presently racing for Astana at the Vuelta a España, also could also not confirm Armstrong's rumoured return to the peloton - possibly to Astana for 2009.
"I don't think so," said Leipheimer of the chances of Armstrong returning to mix it up with the pros.