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Seventh Heaven?

Not satisfied with six Tour de France titles, Lance Armstrong will return

He had sounded like a man in a rut. The day before he stood in yellow on the podium on the Champs-Elysées last July, Lance Armstrong cast doubt on whether he'd be back this summer to go for his seventh straight Tour de France victory. He spoke of maybe riding in the Giro d'Italia or the Vuelta Espa√±a, or trying to break the one-hour velo mark.

All that was back-burnered last week when Armstrong announced that he'll defend his yellow jersey this summer, after all. If Armstrong, who at 34 is deep into middle age for a rider, was going to try to win one more of these bears, says Dan Osipow, a vice president at Tailwind Sports, co-owner of Armstrong's new Discovery team, "it makes a lot more sense to do it in '05 than to take '05 off and do '06."

Yes, he is a few weeks behind in his training. (That was Lance and girlfriend Sheryl Crow turning heads at the Grammys, where Crow's canary yellow, abdomen-baring Roberto Cavalli gown made it clear she's been getting some time on the bike herself.) But that's cold comfort to his rivals. "The guy loves to train more than to race," says Osipow. And he knows, better than anyone, how to prepare for this race: training in the mountains, memorizing time trial layouts and learning every contour of every climb. "He's not going over there to half-ass this thing," says Osipow. "He's going to win." --Austin Murphy




Armstrong's decision is sure to please his new team.