lance armstrong, outback edition / by Warrior Ant Press Worldwide Anthill Headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.

Sunday, Lance Armstrong begins in earnest his attempt to prove to the world that he's always been clean by racing in the Tour Down Under, the first Pro-Tour race of the season. Fact of the matter is this. You can't take away his seven Le Tour titles-they're in the books. That road been ridden down before and although many of the mighty (Flance aka Floyd Landis, Alexander Vinokourov, Michael Rasmussen, and a host of others) fell off the bike, Lancestrong was always able to stay upright and steer past the allegations.

And this time, he'll have to be clean, since he's signed onto a rigorous anti-doping testing program. And since everyone else will also be clean, and he's still a great cyclist and appears to be in good form, he'll make a good showing. Astana is sending a phalanx of capable riders to help out with the comeback. One thing about these short (1 week) stage events is that there aren't many opportunities for riders to put a whole lot of separation between themselves and the rest of the peleton. The mountains aren't high enough and there aren't enough of them to completely destroy the peleton such as what happens in the Grand Tours. The flat stages are mostly left to the sprinters who shine in mass field sprints. Lance could potentially win a sprint in a breakaway, but he perfers to watch the field sprints from the safety of the peleton. With no time trial and no big mountain stage in the Down Under, it means few opportunities for Armstrong to excel.

Elite athletes, much like politicians before a primary, like to play down comeback expectations. They love to say things like we're only hoping to finish, we're aren't expecting to win, etc. They seem to want to do all this to make any victory, high-placed showing, or stage win (if they happen) seem all that more improbable. Expect Lance to do well, don't expect him to win or even capture a stage. This race is for sprinters. But he'll do well enough to turn next months Tour of California into a media frenzy for yellow bracelets, comeback kids, and American heroes. Ultimately, Down Under and Tour of California aren't races that matter to Lance, except to promote his comeback and causes. And no, Lancestrong's race-that-matters-most is not the Race for the Cure, despite what he might say. The only race that's ever really mattered to Lance is the biggest prize of all - the one that finishes with laps around the Champs Elyesee. His comeback will be designed to win that race, and that race only.

Versus is offering daily wrap-ups of the event on the tube and the web. will likely find some streaming video (or at least audio) to whet the appetites of the truly cycling crazed. For a more local perspective on the race, check out aussie abc.
More at:
daily coverage on cycling fans
aussie abc cycling coverage