Armstrong’s participation in N.M. race back on
AP Sports Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. ” Lance Armstrong will compete in the Tour of the Gila after all, the seven-time Tour de France champion’s first race since breaking his collarbone in a crash last month.
Race director Jack Brennan said Tuesday that Armstrong and Astana teammates Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner will be allowed to compete at this week’s event after USA Cycling reached an agreement with the International Cycling Union.
USA Cycling spokesman Andy Lee confirmed a deal was in place, one day after the UCI informed race organizers of a rule that bars top professional teams like Astana from sending organized squads to national-level races.
The compromise allows up to three members of a pro team to race individually without a team car or team director.
Brennan said the Astana riders plan to race wearing jerseys representing Mellow Johnny’s, Armstrong’s bike store in Austin, Texas. The BMC team that had entered an eight-man squad will also be allowed three members and must wear neutral jerseys.
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Armstrong wrote early Tuesday on his Twitter feed that he was “Down at @mellowjohnnys grabbing some jerseys, etc. to race in…”
The Tour of the Gila in Silver City, N.M., runs Wednesday through Sunday.
Armstrong, who has a home in Aspen, Colo., broke his collarbone during the Vuelta of Castilla and Leon in Spain on March 23 and had surgery two days later. A stainless steel plate and 12 screws were inserted to stabilize it, and the American star has been working toward the Giro d’Italia beginning May 9.
Lee said the agreement allowing the Astana teammates to race in New Mexico was forged by USA Cycling’s chief operating officer, Sean Petty, and UCI president Pat McQuaid in Europe, where they were attending UCI road meetings.
“Sean had significant discussions with the UCI,” Lee said. “Ultimately, USA Cycling and the UCI worked together to find a resolution.”
UCI officials didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
“I thought it was a lost cause, but Sean Petty went to bat for us,” Brennan said.
The deal was hailed on the American side, where the most visible rider in the sport will lend some significant star power to the Tour of the Gila.
“Any opportunity Lance has to race in the United States is a good thing,” Lee said. “And for him to compete in the Tour of the Gila along with Levi and Chris, that’s good for racing in America.”
Brennan said it was important to work out an agreement because other races elsewhere in the United States have had similar issues.
“They are trying to resolve this issue now or work toward a resolution so other promoters are not caught in the same situation,” Brennan said. “It would be good for the sport to work this thing out.”