Lance Armstrong announced today that his Livestrong Foundation will partner with the World Triathlon Corporation to help raise more than $1 million for people afflicted with cancer. Armstrong, famed cancer survivor, 7-time Tour de France champion, and the founder and chairman of the Livestrong Foundation which has raised many millions of dollars in the fight against cancer, committed to race as a professional in several Ironman and Ironman 70.3 races.
A Livestrong Foundation press release stated that Armstrong would race Ironman 70.3 Panama this weekend, the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas, Ironman 70.3 Florida, Ironman 70.3 Hawaii and Ironman France in an attempt to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kona.
In a media conference call this morning, Armstrong elaborated on his race plans: "It's no secret that the test begins Sunday in Panama. It's a decision made quite a few weeks ago, but I kept it to myself."
Armstrong said he will be taking on longer distances in triathlon than ever before and had modest expectations. "For me, I have to be very conservative," he said. "I've never done a half Ironman before. Back in the day, all I raced was Olympic or shorter. I've never finished a half much less a full Ironman. It would not be prudent for me to have ambitious goals for it.
"Then I'll have 6 or 7 weeks to tweak things for Texas."
Armstrong, who finished 4th at the XTERRA USA Nationals in Ogden and crashed out of contention after leading for a time at the Maui XTERRA World Championship this past Fall, said these shorter distance off-road events gave him a good idea what he will face this year.
"I got a little taste of it in Ogden, and I got a bigger taste of it in Maui."
As regarding his choice to race Ironman France, Armstrong said he looked forward to racing on roads he knew well from his cycling career. "People will say,'‘Why Ironman France?' It's the one I've always wanted to do. I've ridden hours and hours on those roads. Not easy terrain there. It's technical."
Andrew Messick, Chief Executive Officer of World Triathlon Corporation, said "At 13 years old, Lance got his start in triathlon by racing in the IronKids Series. At 16 years old, he went pro and was considered a star in our sport. At only 18, he was racing against the best triathletes in the world: Mark Allen, Dave Scott and Scott Molina. We are happy to have him return to our sport. Lance is a fierce competitor and his involvement with Ironman and Ironman 70.3 is good for triathlon."
Veteran Ironman stars were excited by Armstrong's decision to jump into the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 fray—a move that has been highly anticipated for several years.
"It is exciting to see Lance Armstrong, one of the greatest-ever endurance athletes, coming back to race triathlons in 2012," said Craig Alexander, three-time Ironman World Champion and two-time Ironman 70.3 World Champion.
"Lance is an exceptional athlete; he's the type of person who wants to excel and be the best at whatever he puts his mind to," said Chris Lieto, multiple Ironman and Ironman 70.3 champion. "I'm excited to see how his participation in our sport will draw attention to what it takes to be a triathlete and how challenging it can be. It will definitely bring triathlon more into the mainstream and I know pro athletes, including myself, will look forward to racing with him at future events."
Armstrong gave a brief description at the media conference call of the mechanics of raising funds through this partnership. "There are three pillars to this program," he said. "First, WTC made a sizeable contribution to my foundation. Second, in these four events [in which Armstrong is scheduled to compete] there will be 250 Livestrong slots [at each race] allotted for people who want to participate."
Livestrong media representative Rae Bazzarre said that participants availing themselves of this program are required to raise for Livestrong a minimum of $600 at each of the three 70.3 events and a minimum of $1,400 at Ironman France.
Armstrong added that there are four spots for Kona in 2012 and 2013 that will be auctioned off to benefit the Livestrong Foundation.