Quick Step team-manager Patrick Lefevere has started an effort to woo Lance Armstrong to the Belgian squad. Quick Step is losing star rider Paolo Bettini for next season, as it's unable to afford the Italian UCI World Road Champion, but Lefevere's sponsors have apparently said they've be happy to foot the bill from Armstrong.
"It seems unrealistic, but it's worth a try," Lefevere told HLN.be. "There are still no concrete talks, but I have contacted the office of Bill Stapleton [Armstrong's adviser]."
"My two main sponsors, Quick Step and bicycle manufacturer Specialized, are in American hands," he added. "For them, Armstrong is very attractive. Even if he doesn't win the Tour, it would still have gigantic advertising return."
While sponsors might be happy to stump up the cash to employ Armstrong, the main stumbling block for Lefevere's bid is in fact his sponsor Specialized. The seven time Tour de France champion has a life-long deal with its rival American manufacturer Trek Bicycles.
The Trek connection adds further weight to suggestions Armstrong will re-unite with team director Johan Bruyneel. The Astana boss has gone on record saying he can't imagine Armstrong riding with any other team, however Astana has said it's not considered taking on Armstrong and won't until the American releases more details on his comeback.
Armstrong is expected to announce more details on his 2009 return, aimed at raising cancer awareness through his Livestrong charity, today. The influential sports figure will announce his plans at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, USA, where world leaders are also gathered this week for the United Nations General Assembly.
Kazakhstan officials have thrown further weight behind a possible Armstrong-Astana hook-up. Defence Minister Danial Akhmetov, who is also the nation's cycling federation chief, gave his stamp of approval to Armstrong as a possible signing to the squad. "He is a great cyclist and he is also a great humanitarian and that makes him a perfect fit for our team," Akhmetov told Reuters.