There seems little doubt that Lance Armstrong will continue racing into 2010. According to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) story today, Armstrong told cycling great Eddy Merckx yesterday that he will race in next year's Tour of Qatar. Merckx, for years a close friend of Armstrong's, assists with the organization of the race. The two spoke by phone as Armstrong dined with Merckx's son, Axel. Merckx added that had Armstrong not raced the Tour Down Under last month, he'd have raced in Qatar this year.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) has the story this morning, confirming a story at CNN: Lance Armstrong and his girlfriend Anna Hansen are expecting a baby in June. (ie, just before the 2009 Tour de France)
"Anna et moi sommes ravis de confirmer que nous attendons un bébé en juin et nos familles sont folles de joie et très heureuses", a déclaré Armstrong. (Their respective families are crazy happy.)
Paris (cyclingfans.com) - The French media (notably television) are already falling over themselves to cover the Lance Armstrong comeback story. Armstrong, no doubt, will be the biggest story French sports journalists cover in 2009 and they know it. French radio, television, print and internet journalists are following Armstrong's every step. And Armstrong is feeding them (as well as his fans and detractors worldwide) as if they were pigeons in a Paris park via his Twitter feed.
A lucky few will get exclusive access to the 7-time Tour de France champion in the form of lengthy interviews.
Longtime journalists for French sports daily L'Equipe, accustomed in another era long ago to informal interviews of star cyclists over a drink in a bar, resented the relatively limited access they had to Armstrong during his seven Tour de France victories; they often had to go to the old Paceline website like everyone else to get the latest Armstrong news. And by the time they filed their stories, a million bloggers worldwide had already covered the story. Oh la la, it was the end of journalism!
And now they have to consume his Twitter feed like everyone else? (Would you like fries with that, Jean-François?) Mon dieu!
Many individual journalists here will continue to resent the limited access they have to Armstrong in 2009 but the media they work for are fascinated by Armstrong's return. Hero or outlaw, it doesn't matter. The French love westerns. Armstrong of course knows by now which French journalists are "friendly" and which are not. Nearly all of them will tip-toe carefully around the champion for fear of having the door shut entirely on their access to the subject of their biggest story of the next year.
There's always Twitter.
Recent Armstrong stories on French television:
Lance Armstrong on Tenerife
Armstrong vs. Contador?
Armstrong and Contador go on
a training ride, one that Contador
finds a bit long given he has only just returned to training. He asks Alain Gallopin, an Astana directeur sportif, who is responsible for laying out the tough ride. Gallopin responds "Uh, Lance." Contador responds "I won't forget this."
Lance Armstrong sits down for a chat with two friendly journalists from France Télévisions, Lionel Chamoulaud and Jean-René Godart. A long interview, Armstrong responses are in English but also voiced over in French.
On L'Equipe TV, they recently discussed whether Armstrong would need protection from roadside fans.
Lance Armstrong confirmed this morning in a press conference at Interbike in Las Vegas that he will be competing at the 2009 Amgen Tour of California as a member of the Astana Cycling Team.