KAPALUA, Hawaii — Lance Armstrong doesn’t expect to win the XTERRA World Championship off-road triathlon Sunday, and that is just fine with him.
The seven-time Tour de France winner is entered in the event in Hawaii, just a month after competing in his first triathlon in 22 years, the XTERRA USA Championship in Utah. He finished fifth in that race, about five minutes behind winner Nico Lebrun.
After not training seriously for the USA event, he has put in more work since then to be ready for the race Sunday on the island of Maui. The race consists of a mile ocean swim, 18.3-mile mountain bike ride and a 6.1-mile trail run.
“I thought, ‘This is terrible, why would I want to go do this for when I am 40 years old?’ I could be doing other things,” Armstrong said Wednesday. “I took a few days and thought about it and started training again and thought, ‘Maybe I should at least focus on this, do some specific work, do some intensity, try to at least adapt to what the race is like.”
Armstrong cut back his travel schedule, got over a sinus condition and a heel injury that was bothering him and set his sights on Maui. Against a professional field of 75 racers that includes 2008 Olympic triathlon gold medalist Jan Frodeno of Germany, he knows it would be a long shot for him to win.
“I think my form will be completely different than what it was in Utah,” Armstrong said. “But then again . . . Nobody peaked in Ogden, everybody is peaking here.”
Armstrong decided to compete in Utah with his lifelong friend Jimmy Riccitello, who won the inaugural XTERRA event on Maui in 1996. It has now grown into a series of more than 100 events in 15 states and 38 countries, a series that culminates on Sunday.
“I will be happy going out there and giving it my best,” Armstrong said. “Maybe that is top five, maybe it is top 10. It could be better, I don’t know. That is why we have the race so we can find out.”
Armstrong did not completely rule himself out.
“I’d be really happy if I won it, so I guess that means I’d be surprised,” he said. “Shocked is probably too big of a word, or too strong a word, but, yeah, I’d be very pleasantly surprised.”
Armstrong said he is too busy running his foundation, raising his children, and taking care of business ventures to commit to this circuit full time. He has run sub-three-hour marathons since retiring from world-class cycling.
“I’m just a retired guy who likes to ride his bike,” he said. “The vibe here is a little more laid-back, a little more relaxed, which is good for me. It is not like I’m jumping into full-distance Ironman in Kona for my first race where everybody wants to kill the guy next to them. … Listen, if I didn’t enjoy the training, the racing, being here, I wouldn’t do it. Nobody’s paying me to come here. Nobody is saying, ‘You have to go there.’ This is something I choose to do.”