In his strongest comments yet on next year’s Tour de France, Lance Armstrong says he is unsure if he will ride in cycling’s showcase event because he’d like to compete in other races.
Armstrong, who won a record sixth straight Tour de France this year, said in Saturday’s edition of L’Equipe it is “time to move onto other things.” He has previously been somewhat evasive about whether he will return in 2005.
“Honestly, I don’t know if I will be at the start of the next Tour,” he told the sports newspaper. “There are a lot of other things I would like to do in cycling before retiring. So I tell myself 2005 could be a good year to do these (other races).”
The 32-year-old Texan has dedicated most of his cycling life to the Tour, leaving little room for such Classic races as the Paris-Roubaix or Fleche Wallone, which he won in 1996 shortly before being diagnosed with cancer, or the Spanish Vuelta.
“For once, my race calendar is not decided 100 percent for the start of the year,” he said. “I prefer it to be flexible and have the freedom to decide when I choose a race. If that means the Tour, then I will decide when I like. If it’s Paris-Roubaix, then that’s the same thing.”
However, if Armstrong does skip next year’s Tour, he could return the following year.
“Of course, I will continue to adore the Tour. It remains the most important race in the world,” he said. “If I am not there next year, it is not a sanction against the race or its fans.”
His new team sponsor, Discovery Channel, most likely would urge Armstrong to take part in at least one more Tour before he retires.