Armstrong To Join Kazakh Cycling Team The Kazakh Cycling Federation has announced that Lance Armstrong will join Team Astana for his comeback to professional cycling. We examine why Armstrong might have chosen this team, despite the fact that it encountered serious doping problems last year.
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Armstrong To Join Kazakh Cycling Team

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Armstrong To Join Kazakh Cycling Team

Armstrong To Join Kazakh Cycling Team

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Chadwick. Bicycle champ Lance Armstrong: The seven-time Tour de France winner has a new team, and he's coming back to racing. He'll be with the Kazakh Cycling Federation, that's according to the Kazakhstan cycling team.

Andrew Hood is the Tour de France reporter for VeloNews. He's on the phone from a bike race in Italy. Andrew, welcome back to Day to Day. And Lance Armstrong's going to be racing for Kazakhstan?

Mr. ANDREW HOOD (Tour de France Reporter, VeloNews): That's the way it sounds right now, but it's interesting that the actual team behind this sponsor is his old manager from the Discovery Channel days where he won seven Tours de France in a row. So, it's not exactly - really a new team, it's just a new sponsor on the old jersey.

CHADWICK: So, his coach, the guy who won for him all these years in the past, he's gone to work for the Kazakhstan team, they've hired him, and so Lance is going to go ride for him.

Mr. HOOD: Yeah, that's correct. Johan Bruyneel, he was an ex-Belgian pro. He's the guy that helped steer Armstrong toward the Tour de France back in 1999, when Lance really decided to focus on the Tour for the first time. They won seven Tours in a row. Bruyneel stayed with the team. The Discovery Channel team folded after 2007, when their sponsor was - extended, and Bruyneel landed with Astana (ph), which is a consortium of companies from Kazakhstan that have gotten behind cycling.

CHADWICK: But wasn't this team thrown out of last year's Tour because of doping problems?

Mr. HOOD: Yeah. It's interesting because this team was born out of the ashes of another team called Liberty Sagutos(ph), which was the center of a big doping scandal in Spain in 2006. Then the team in 2007 had another doping scandal, with two of its star riders kicked out of the Tour de France for blood doping, which is injecting someone else's blood into your system to enhance your performance.

And then, this year's Tour de France, in 2008, the owners and operators of the Tour de France said, we don't want to see this team back in the Tour. So, the big question really is, will the Tour welcome back the new Astana with the comeback of Lance Armstrong? And most guesses are yes, but there is a history.

CHADWICK: Well, will it welcome back Lance Armstrong at all, and what would be his prospects? I mean, he hasn't raced, really, in top races in the last three years, although he's been in some smaller races, riding for his foundation.

Mr. HOOD: That's correct. That's really the big question. The buzz here in Europe is people were really wondering if Lance can come back to the top levels to what it takes to win a race like the Tour de France. We're talking three weeks racing, every day 100 percent, that the winning and losing margins come down to percentage points.

The big question is, is he capable of coming back from the three and a half year stop by the time he comes back to the Tour next year. Can he regain that fitness to win? No one knows the answer to that right now.

CHADWICK: How big a surprise is this in the bicycling world? Were there rumors that Lance was planning to come back?

Mr. HOOD: I would say (unintelligible) is shocking. People were just floored, they couldn't believe it when they heard it. Actually, VeloNews, the magazine I work for, broke the story. Everyone just dismissed it as rumor mongering. Two days later, Lance confirmed it was true. Vanity Fair was going to write - print a story that he was coming back.

The rumors started about a month ago. Before that, everyone thought Lance was done with cycling, all his public declarations confirmed that. Everyone thought he'd turned the page on cycling, but we're not quite sure exactly why he's coming back - that's what we're hoping to find out today in New York.

CHADWICK: Andrew Hood, the Tour de France reporter for VeloNews,speaking with us from Italy. Andrew, thanks.

Mr. HOOD: OK. Thank you.

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