Champ going back to comfort zone

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The people around Lance Armstrong haven't seen him this fit or motivated in a long time.

Good thing, too, since he will need plenty of both, plus thick skin, his maniacal work ethic and intimidating pain threshold, a top-flight team, deep-pocketed sponsors, cooperation from the notoriously fickle Tour de France organizers -- and a few thousand miles of luck besides.

You could fill a sculpture park tomorrow with the statues of great athletes whose dreams of a comeback would have ended better if they'd only rolled over and gone back to sleep. But bet against Armstrong doing exactly what he said he would -- returning to try and win what might be the world's toughest sporting event next summer at age 37, four years after riding off into the sunset -- at your own risk.

This wouldn't mark the first time Armstrong has beaten long odds. One thing I know for certain after covering him for almost 10 years is this: The man is relentless.

Seven Tour titles attest to Armstrong's fear of failure eloquently enough. This is a guy, after all, who still wears his hair close-cropped to remember the hell that was chemotherapy, but just long enough to cover two horseshoe-sized indentations in his head that his surgeons carved as pathways to get at the cancer that had spread to his brain.

Armstrong was clearly unhappy with the images of him being flashed around the world: serial dater, lax parent, political dabbler. He was tired of hearing his sport trashed -- and by extension, his achievements diminished -- and frustrated by the roadblocks erected in his path in the fight against cancer.

Those were new, scary issues that all of a sudden were going to come jump into your house and ruin your life. So Armstrong did what has always made him feel better, returning to the one place he could always dictate terms.

He climbed back on his bike.


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