Call it Comeback 4.0.
VeloNews has learned that Lance Armstrong will make a return to the pro peloton later this season in a bid to sharpen his form ahead of the Ironman world championships in October.
Sources have confirmed to VeloNews that the seven-time Tour de France champion will race the three-week Vuelta a España (August 18 to September 9) to hone his cycling legs ahead of the three-event Ironman finale on October 13.
Armstrong could not be reached for comment, but a source close to his inner circle confirmed the story.
“Lance was fourth in the 1998 Vuelta and he wants to race it again, mainly for conditioning, but who knows with Lance?,” the source said. “He’s still mad about what happened in the 2010 Tour, and you know what happens when Lance gets mad.”
Officials from RadioShack-Nissan would not comment on the story, but it is believed that Armstrong will return with the team in what will be yet another highly anticipated comeback for Armstrong, who will turn 41 a week after the Vuelta concludes.
Armstrong has reportedly quietly signed on with anti-doping controls in order to meet guidelines that require athletes to be in the anti-doping control pool at least six months ahead of competition. UCI officials would not comment.
Officials said the return to cycling is temporary and it’s not likely that the peloton will see Armstrong for very long.
“He’s doing this to get in top shape for the Ironman,” another source said. “It’s a risk in that he could crash or get sick, but there’s no better training than racing.”
The mountainous edition of the 2012 Vuelta likely discounts any GC ambitions and Armstrong is expected to ride as a “special” domestique, though the idea of him not trying to win at least one stage or go on the attack is unlikely.
Armstrong returned to triathlon in February, finishing second in the Ironman 70.3 Panama race, only getting passed by eventual winner Bevan Docherty in the final two kilometers.
“Lance is going to win Ironman. And he’s going to race the Vuelta to get in the best absolute shape,” the source said. “I don’t know what the odds are, but if I were a betting man, I would bet the house on that.”
As of late March, Armstrong still had not qualified to start the Ironman world championships, so there were no odds posted on the online betting sites. Docherty’s odds, however, were 51-to-1.
So if Armstrong almost beat him in his comeback, it might be worth putting a Ben Franklin on him no matter what happens.