Lance Armstrong has defied doubters and debunked disbelievers throughout his comeback to the sport of cycling after nearly four years away from competition. Behind an unorthodox training regimen that included mountain bike racing, small domestic American road races and his first ever participation in the Giro d'Italia, Armstrong rode to an amazing third place overall in this year's Tour de France. Only his teammate Alberto Contador and Saxo Bank's Andy Schleck were better over the course of the three week race in France, and even before the Tour was over Armstrong had began a new team for 2010 with the sole aim of coming first in the 2010 Tour.
Before the 2010 season begins though there are still several races that Armstrong will contest over the coming weeks and months. He'll be in Ireland in a couple of weeks time for the Tour of Ireland, and it has also been suggested that he will ride at the Tour of Missouri in September. There is one other important race though that Armstrong has yet to confirm for: The Greenville Hospital Systems US Pro Championships at the end of August. Bookended between the Tours of Ireland and Missouri, US Pro would seem an ideal race for Armstrong to race in, and perhaps win, as he continues to defy critics and skeptics world wide.
Armstrong already has one US Pro title. Way back in 1993 he won his lone national road title on a brash solo escape on the tough Philadelphia International course, and in the process cemented what would be a lasting legacy as arguably the greatest American professional cyclist ever. Now, 16 years since that historical day in Philadelphia, Armstrong has another golden opportunity to make history again by taking his country's national road title for the second time, more than a decade and a half removed from his first national title win.
The US Pro course is well-suited to Armstrong's capabilities, with a long climb up Paris Mountain multiple times, and he should be on decent form after having rode the Tour of Ireland just a week previous. Meanwhile, many of the favorites like George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer. and Chris Horner are either recovering from injury or racing elsewhere, so the stage would seem to be set for a possible Armstrong victory. The only big obstacle that seems to be standing in Armstrong's way is the Garmin juggernaut that will descend on Greenville once again in search of the Stars & Stripes jersey that eluded them in 2008.
Last year, in what was one of the most exciting races in the history of US cycling, the now disgraced Tyler Hamilton was able to resist the will of several Garmin riders to take his first US Pro title. Armstrong will likely be in a similar situation should he choose to contest the US Pro championship, as Garmin will once again come with a huge contingent to Greenville. Garmin team boss Jonathan Vaughters would love to have both the US Pro time trial champion and road race champion heading into next season, and so he'll expect his riders to work together to accomplish both feats over the August 29-30th weekend. David Zabriskie has been unstoppable at the US Pro time trial championship over the past three years, and with solid roadies like Christian Vande Velde, Danny Pate, and Mike Friedman, Garmin will have several cards to play come race time in Greenville.
Armstrong too though will have decent support, providing luck is on his side. Levi Leipheimer is recovering from a broken wrist suffered at the Tour de France, but the Santa Rosa, California resident has stated that he may still be able to ride US Pro. Then too is the fact that Armstrong is starting his own team for 2010 with Radioshack. He has no doubt been in contact with some of the more promising young American pros in reference to his new team, and so US Pros could turn into an audition of sorts for those riders hopeful of joining Armstrong in 2010.
Lance Armstrong has stated that the number one reason of his comeback is to raise awareness world wide for the fight against cancer. He has succeeded in doing so in Italy, France, and soon Ireland, but none of those ventures would carry the impact that winning a US Professional title 16 years after his first would. The significance of such an occurance would not be lost on the cycling public, but more importantly it would capture the attention of the world wide media as well. Now all there is left to do is wait, and hope, that Armstorng takes to the line in Greenville on August 30.