AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lance Armstrong won’t be riding in the Tour de France anymore, but he’ll still compete in smaller races next year, seeing himself as an ambassador in the fight against cancer.
The questions are what races, where and when — and what happens if a federal investigation into allegations of doping by Armstrong and other professional cyclists drags into next year.
The 39-year-old Texan has yet to announce where he’ll race in 2011. A spokesman for his RadioShack team said its directors are scheduled to meet as early as next week to draft their racing calendar.
The team could compete in the entire schedule of International Cycling Union events, RadioShack spokesman Philippe Maertens said.
As for Armstrong, “I am sure that also Lance still has to figure it out,” Maertens said in an e-mail.
Armstrong’s girlfriend Anna Hansen earlier this week gave birth to their second child (his fifth), daughter Olivia, in Aspen, Colo. He’s in Austin this weekend to participate in the Ride for the Roses weekend to celebrate big donors to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Several members of his RadioShack team, including Levi Leipheimer, are scheduled to participate as well.
Leipheimer, who turns 37 on Sunday, said he hopes he can win a fourth title in the Tour of California and still reach the podium at the Tour de France.
“It’s possible and as long as I still believe in that, I’ll keep racing,” Leipheimer said.
Leipheimer said he hasn’t spoken with Armstrong about Armstrong’s plans for 2011.
“I think he’s keeping it secret,” Leipheimer said. “I think physically he still has something left in the tank.”
Most of the events Armstrong will attend in Austin are private except for Sunday morning’s Livestrong challenge ride that typically draws thousands of cyclists.
Armstrong’s hasn’t raced competitively since finishing 23rd in his final Tour de France in July. He won cycling’s main event a record seven times from 1999-2005.
Recent history suggests a return to competition at the 2011 Tour Down Under in Australia, a five-day stage race which begins Jan. 18. Armstrong chose that race to begin his comeback in 2009 and finished 25th overall in 2010.
Mark Fabiani, spokesman for Armstrong’s legal team in the federal investigation, said Armstrong “will enter select events in which he has the opportunity to support Livestrong, Team RadioShack and the sport of cycling.”
The investigation grew following accusations from Floyd Landis, one of Armstrong’s former teammates on the Tour-winning U.S. Postal team, in a series of e-mails sent to cycling and doping officials this spring.
Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour title for doping, said the use of banned substances was common on the team. Armstrong has denied those allegations vigorously and has questioned Landis’ credibility. Prosecutors have been presenting evidence and witnesses to a grand jury in Los Angeles that has been looking into Armstrong and doping in cycling more broadly.
Leipheimer declined comment on the investigation and would not say if he’s been subpoenaed or spoken with investigators.
It’s possible Armstrong won’t even take the federal probe into account as he builds his racing calendar. He has kept up a busy public schedule in the face of the grand jury sessions, with his legal team saying the reason is that he has nothing to hide.
Officials at the Lance Armstrong Foundation say donations have stayed strong despite the investigation. Donations of $18.5 million through September are up 3 percent over 2009, a year when the foundation enjoyed an 18 percent bump.
The total number of donations is also up to 118,702, a 2 percent increase over last year.
“Other than this being a distraction away from our mission, our fundraisers and donors have been incredibly supportive,” foundation president Doug Ulman said.