Armstrong to retire after Tour de France

Posted: Tuesday, April 19, 2005

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Lance Armstrong is retiring after this year's Tour de France, ending a cycling career in which he inspired millions by overcoming testicular cancer to win his sport's signature event a record six straight times.

Armstrong said he remains ''fully committed'' to winning his seventh straight Tour de France this year and is driven ''by that dream to go out on top. That's a big deal to me.''

''It will be the last one, win or lose,'' the 33-year-old Texan said at a news conference Monday.

The Tour de France ends on July 24.

Armstrong said he began thinking about retirement after his victory last year. Spending a month away from his children recently helped to seal the decision.

''That was much more difficult that it had been before,'' he said. ''They are at a stage now where they change daily, if not hourly. ... It's time for me to not miss key moments in their lives.''

Speculation regarding Armstrong's future had grown in recent months, fueled by the rider's comments that he wanted to spend more time with his three children and step up his efforts in raising awareness and funds for fighting cancer.

''Ultimately, athletes have to retire ... the body doesn't just keep going and going,'' Armstrong said.

But, Armstrong acknowledged, their competitiveness often does.

He said that while watching a recent cycling race on TV with his girlfriend, musician Sheryl Crow, he was so stirred by the competition, ''I couldn't sit down the entire race.''

Crow then challenged him on his retirement decision.

''She said 'Look at you. You can't even sit down. How are you going to retire?''' Armstrong said. ''It's a great question. I have to tell you I am 100 percent committed and the decision is final.''

Still, come next year, Armstrong knows he'll probably want to climb back onto the bike.

I'll definitely have the itch now and again,'' he said.

Monday's announcement came on the eve of Armstrong's defense of his Tour of Georgia championship. The six-day, 648-mile event he uses as a training tool for the Tour de France begins Tuesday in Augusta.

Armstrong said the Georgia race could be his last professional competition in America, though he left open the possibility of racing in May at another practice event before the Tour de France.

''If there's a good local race, I'm more than happy to jump in,'' he said.

Even before the news conference, Tour of Georgia officials already had been promoting their race as the potential American farewell for Armstrong.

''While we certainly wish he'd never stop racing, as he has done so much for the sport of cycling and American cycling, we're thrilled and honored that he has chosen the Tour de Georgia as what could be his last professional race here on American soil,'' said Stan Holm, executive director of the race.

''Lance is a true hero and inspiration to people all over the world.''

Tour of Georgia officials have received more than 500 media credential applications this year, almost twice last year's total. As evidence of Armstrong's widespread celebrity, the announcement attracted TV crews representing such diverse interests as MSNBC, CNN, Outdoor Life Network, Access Hollywood and ESPN.

''This is probably the second-biggest media event in Augusta in recent weeks,'' Armstrong said, referring to the Masters golf tournament, as he greeted reporters.

Armstrong said he decided to make the announcement now, instead of closer to July, so he could ''be upfront and honest with the media, the people, the fans, not just here in America and in Europe.''

Armstrong said he would remain involved with the Discovery Channel racing team. His new two-year contract to race for the Discovery Channel team requires he race just one more Tour de France. He says he'd like to win a seventh time.

''I was fortunate to win six times. Can I win again this year? I'm not sure, but I'm going to try,'' he said. ''It's my ambition to win and also a little bit of my job to win.''

Armstrong was attracted to the Tour of Georgia's support for the Georgia Cancer Coalition, the official beneficiary of the race.

He has said previously if he retires he would amplify his high-profile role as a cancer survivor.

Along with his cycling accomplishments, Armstrong's romance with Crow also often places him in gossip magazines and tabloid-style television shows.

''Sheryl, you've been an amazing woman. For someone who is the queen of rock n' roll, you've been a great cycling fan ... a great teammate,'' he said.



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