Obama Taps Armstrong as VP!

Just kidding.  Though adding the Texan to his ticket would bring much-needed attention to his increasingly overshadowed VP choice (hint: it’s not Sarah Palin), Barack Obama has not, in fact, named Lance Armstrong his running mate.

But here’s an even better bit of news (albeit one many Americans will ignore): At age 36, the 7-time Tour de France winner is reported to be planning a cycling comeback in 2009.  Fittingly enough, 36 just so happens to be the age of the oldest winner in Tour history – Firmin Lambot, who conquered cycling toughest feat in 1922.  Should Armstrong be able to compete at anywhere near his past level, he will further cement his status as the greatest cyclist the world has ever known.

Rumors of a return to competitive cycling had been swirling since August, when Armstrong finished second in the Leadville 100, a grueling race held at an altitude of 12,600 feet through the mountains of Colorado.   Though ancient by cycling standards, Armstrong, who retired in 2005, has managed to stay in shape through a combination of running a sub-3 hour marathon in each of the last 3 years and maintaining a steady diet of chasing around Olsen twins.

According to Velonews (though subsequently denied by all parties involved), Armstrong will join Team Astana, widely regarded as one of the top teams in the sport.  Sadly, Astana does not have the same all-American image of Armstrong’s former team, Team Discovery Channel, which was forced to disband when its sponsor declined to renew its contract.  However, in joining Astana, Armstrong would be reuniting with his former Team Discovery director Johan Bruyneel and partnering with 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador – a logical move for someone looking to get back to the top of his game.  Or Armstrong might just be a Borat fan who took it one step too far – Astana, after all, is the capital of Kazakhstan.

As a big-time fan of endurance sports (I was one of 12 people to watch Versus’ 3-week coverage of this year’s Tour), I am pretty pumped.  But I can’t help feeling Lance is risking his reputation by pulling a Jordan (or a Clemens, or a Favre).  What is it about America’s elite athletes that prevents them from walking (or riding) away at the top of their game?  Both Jordan and Clemens tarnished their images but making one return too many – I’d hate to see footage of Armstrong walking his bike up the Alps splashed all over ESPN.  Yet should he succeed, forget best cyclist ever – he’ll be the best athlete ever, in any sport, period (sorry Michael Phelps).

Its a risk, but the competitor in me says Lance should go for it.  Let’s remember, the guy conquered cancer.  I’d say he has a fighting chance.

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