Armstrong Returns to Tour of the Gila

Wednesday, April 21, 2010
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP)—Lance Armstrong is returning to the Tour of the Gila.

The seven-time Tour de France champion competed in the New Mexico event last year and has decided to return for next week’s five-day race, held in the Silver City area.

“Not only do the state and the local fans embrace this race, but the terrain, competition, and timing is perfect,” Armstrong said in a statement released by bicycle components manufacturer Sram Corp., the event’s title sponsor.

“We are looking forward to taking the start in Silver City. It’s a great event,” he said.

Armstrong will be joined by his friend and teammate, Levi Leipheimer, who claimed two stage victories in winning last year’s Tour of the Gila overall title. Armstrong finished second.

“The second time around is even better,” race director Jack Brennan said Wednesday. “They saw the race. They experienced it and they wanted to come back. They had a good experience last year. They found the race to be of value in their preparation for the Tour of California and the Tour de France.”

Jason McCartney, another member of Armstrong’s Team RadioShack, will join them.

However, the three Team RadioShack cyclists will compete independently of their squad because of a rule barring ProTour teams from national level events. Like last year, Armstrong will wear the kit of the Mellow Johnny’s bike shop in Austin, Texas.

Chris Horner raced with Armstrong and Leipheimer in 2009, when all three were members of the Astana team.

Armstrong wasn’t expected to come back to New Mexico, but he’ll be on the start line Wednesday. The race, which covers 339 miles and features 25,231 feet of climbing, runs through May 2.

Last year, the Tour of the Gila fit into Armstrong’s comeback schedule as he recovered from a broken collarbone. While it helped him prepare for the Giro d’Italia, team general manager Johan Bruyneel indicated then that Armstrong and Leipheimer normally wouldn’t have attended the Gila.

Armstrong changed his mind, encouraged not only by Silver City’s support of the race but because the Gila competition will again feature his developmental squad. The Trek-Livestrong team is led by young talent Taylor Phinney.