Lance Armstrong to compete in Utah triathlon
SALT LAKE CITY -- Six days after celebrating his 40th birthday, seven-time Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong will be back on the bike competing in the XTERRA USA Championship at Snowbasin Ski Resort in Utah.
Armstrong confirmed Thursday he will compete Sept. 24 in the XTERRA event that covers a 1-mile swim, 20-mile mountain bike ride and 6-mile trail run.
He scouted the course for three hours last week with the past president of the foundation that sponsors the XTERRA championship, and has tweeted four-time XTERRA world champion Conrad Stoltz about it.
"It seemed like a fun time and the training has been going very well," Armstrong told The Associated Press on Thursday. "I'll go out there and have a good time and see how it goes."
He said it has been 23 years since he's done any type of triathlon so he said it would be prudent to take it race by race to see if it's something he wants to pursue more seriously next year, or perhaps even train for longer races.
But he said he has no expectations of winning, though he has been training hard the past eight months or so.
"I have no doubt (Stoltz) is a great athlete, with a lot of experience," Armstrong said. "I don't think I'm at that level right now. ... It will be fun to go out and race with a bunch of strong athletes. I'm going to go out and try to enjoy myself. ... But I don't go in with any grand expectations."
The top XTERRA athletes in the world will compete at Snowbasin, including South Africa's Stoltz, five-time national champ Josiah Middaugh and two-time Ironman World Champion Tim DeBoom.
Stoltz said the course is a good fit for Armstrong as it involves a lot of climbing but is not very technical on the descents.
Asked whether the run or swim will be harder, Armstrong wasn't sure.
"That's one of the questions I have for myself," Armstrong said, noting he has had some issues with plantar fasciitis in his left heel. "We'll have to see how my swim comes back. When I was a kid, it was one of my strengths, but again that was a long time ago."
Armstrong, who turns 40 on Sunday, announced in February in an interview with the AP that he was leaving Tour racing for good -- again.
He made a comeback attempt in 2009 -- four years after his first retirement -- but it failed to produce an eighth Tour title or diminish talk that performance-enhancing drugs helped his career.
But even in February, he kidded, "Never say never" about racing again.
On Thursday, he confirmed he isn't interested in racing the Tour de France again but wants to check out this new "beast" that involves off-road riding and running.
Stoltz said Armstrong began texting him recently and suggested they train together.
"He was talking smack," quipped Stoltz, also known as "Caveman."
"He was like, `Let's go training, bring it on Caveman!"
Stoltz said he looks forward to competing against one of the world's best athletes.
"It would be great to have him, good for the sport," Stoltz said. "If he wants laid-back races for enjoyment, it would be a good match. A lot of people think he'll do an Ironman, but that's not fun because you have to do so much training and it's eight hours of nothing but pain."
Armstrong has not competed in an XTERRA before but is quite familiar with triathlons, having started his athletic career in the sport. He became a professional triathlete at age 16, and by the late 1980s was the No. 1-ranked triathlete in the 19-and-under group.
Stoltz said the XTERRA run will favor Armstrong because it is different than racing on pavement. "It's not about speed but strength and endurance," Stoltz said.
Mike Caldwell, past president of the Ogden-based GOAL Foundation that sponsors the XTERRA championship, said Armstrong appeared in top shape last week when he came to Utah to scout the course.
Caldwell said Armstrong flew up bike trails that gained 4,500 feet in elevation and on foot trails that gained another 1,000 feet.
"From what I saw he was in phenomenal shape," said Caldwell, who tried to keep up with Armstrong and Armstrong's good friend, Jimmy Riccitello, a former XTERRA world champion and a top triathlete for more than 20 years.
Caldwell said Armstrong was a man in motion when he wasn't on the bike or trail, tweeting, arranging business meetings and keeping tabs on the Livestrong Foundation that has raised about $400 million since 1997 -- a year after a life-threatening cancer diagnosis.
On Sept. 9 -- two days after Armstrong flew from San Francisco, to Ogden then on to Canada for charity events -- Armstrong tweeted about his hectic pace.
Now he'll be adding another trip to Snowbasin, site of the downhill and Super G races in the 2002 Winter Olympics.
"I enjoy the training," Armstrong said. "It's almost like therapy for me. And it's easy to do and it's cheaper than therapy so I'll always need that aspect in my life."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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