Lance Armstrong has officially announced that his return to racing in 2009 will be made at Australia's Tour Down Under in Adelaide in January 2009, according to the event's official website. It was initially expected that Armstrong would make the announcement later today at the Clinton Global Initiative held at the New York Sheraton.
Mike Rann, South Australia's Premier said he was delighted to make the announcement today, about eight hours ahead of the American cycling legend's news conference in New York later tonight SA time.
Armstrong hinted that his return to racing would be in Australia last Monday after completing the 12 Hours of Snowmass in Colorado.
"The Tour Down Under's Race Director Mike Turtur first approached Lance Armstrong's management earlier this year to discuss the possibility of a guest appearance by Lance for the 2009 Tour Down Under," Rann explained.
"Mike Turtur has been keeping the door wide open with his discussions all year, with the full support and encouragement of Tourism Minister Jane Lomax-Smith and myself.
"Earlier today I spoke to Lance's manager who told me Lance last visited Australia in 2000 for the Sydney Olympics and loved the event.
"I told his manager that hundreds of thousands of South Australians will give Lance a huge welcome.
"Last year we edged out the toughest rivals - China, California and Russia - to be the first place outside Europe to host a ProTour event.
"We've now edged out another series of international rivals who were all vying to host Lance's comeback race.
"I also spoke to Lance's management regarding South Australia cancer research and treatment credentials and promised to support Armstrong in his mission.
"We are happy to join with him in supporting those causes."
The Tour Down Under has grown to become the traditional start to the professional cycling season since it's inception in 1999. With Armstrong set to make his return there next year Rann expects the 2009 edition to be the biggest yet.
"Lance participating in the Tour Down Under will mean the biggest influx of overseas and interstate visitors to any sporting event in South Australia's history.
"Attracting world cycling icon Lance Armstrong to begin his comeback in South Australia is a major coup for the State and will place the Tour Down Under front and centre of the world professional cycling events.
"Lance Armstrong's global profile has the potential to double the 15 000 people who come to SA to watch the race, and we are told we can anticipate a quadrupling of worldwide media coverage for the event - because of his immense popularity."
"Lance's decision to race in the Tour Down Under is a huge boost to the event and gives a great opportunity to showcase South Australia to the world.
"No doubt cycling fans will take this unique opportunity to see the greatest ever cyclist competing in Australia and I fully expect this to bring even greater benefits to South Australia."
For more information visit the official Tour Down Under website.