Armstrong: will he, won't he?

Seven-time Tour winner doesn't quite rule out comeback

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Although he officially retired on July 24, Lance Armstrong may still be considering a shot at an eighth straight Tour de France next summer. On Monday, Armstrong told the Austin American-Statesman's Suzanne Halliburton, "I'm thinking it's the best way to piss (the French) off." However, on Tuesday Lance's spokesman Mark Higgins told the AP that Armstrong was "100 percent retired," despite the usually cagey Discovery Channel directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel's comment that it was "not impossible" Armstrong would come out of retirement.

Then, late on Tuesday, a feisty, defiant Armstrong issued another statement, saying, "While I'm absolutely enjoying my time as a retired athlete with Sheryl and the kids, the recent smear campaign out of France has awoken my competitive side. I'm not willing to put a percentage on the chances but I will no longer rule it out..."

Discovery Channel team manager Dan Osipow was reported by AP as being caught off-guard by Armstrong's hints of a comeback, but said, "That to me sounds very Lance-like. It leaves things open and the motivation seems pretty clear. He is immensely proud of his reputation."

"Lance was pretty definitive when he announced his plans for retirement," Osipow said, "But circumstances change. Who knows? I leave that to him. We all know he planned on staying fit."

Osipow added that he expected Armstrong would be a favourite to win yet another tour, and the team would find a spot for him if necessary. "He owns part of the team," Osipow said. "If there's a certain rider from Texas who wants to join the team, we'll have space."

To be continued.

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