After being retired for three years, Lance Armstrong has returned to professional cycling. In July, he'll attempt to break his own record by winning an eighth Tour de France. As Armstrong currently trains for the first scheduled race of his comeback, Australia's Tour Down Under, in January, his longtime trainer and coach Chris Carmichael spoke with me via phone to go "In Depth."
Below is an excerpt from our NBC Sports conversation.
GB: When did Lance even first bring up the possibility of a return to you?
CC: It was probably at the beginning of July or so. He said something nonchalantly on a training ride. "Hey, what if we keep going after Leadville?" I thought he meant doing another ultra-endurance mountain bike race because the Leadville 100 is a 100 mile ultra-endurance mountain bike race. I said, "I think there's one in British Columbia," and he stopped me saying, "No, no. I'm talking about... what if we go back to the Tour?" I'm like, "Huh. Are you serious?" He said, "Maybe yes, maybe no." Then, there was more discussion around it each day.
GB: When he finally made the decision that competing in the 2009 Tour de France is indeed what he wanted to do, what was your reaction?
CC: Initially, I was pretty hesitant. I said, "Let's look at all the downside of this and the potential upside." There's a lot more downside. That's what I was telling him. I said, "I just don't think it is a good idea." I sent him a follow-up email about it. The following time we were together he said, "Look, I appreciate your opinion, but I'm going to do this." It was my responsibility for me to give him my straight-from-the-gut answer without it being sugar-coated and then he decides on what he wants to do. Once he made that decision, I got excited because it's pretty cool.
GB: Many people have said it'd be great to see Lance finish in the top five at the Tour de France. Something tells me he doesn't feel the same. If he does not win, how much do you think that will bother him?
CC: Well, let me tell you. Lance is not going back to the Tour de France to finish second. It's obviously a very big challenge and he recognizes that, but his standard is winning.
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