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Children biggest factor in decision

4/19/2005

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- While watching a cycling race on TV
recently, Lance Armstrong hardly acted like someone who was
considering retirement.

"I couldn't sit down the entire race," said Armstrong, who then faced a tough question from girlfriend and rock star Sheryl Crow.

"She said 'Look at you. You can't even sit down. How are you going to retire?' " Armstrong said. "It's a great question."

Armstrong will soon find out the answer. At a news conference
Monday, he said he is retiring after this Tour de France, a
three-week race ending July 24.

"I have to tell you I am 100 percent committed and the decision
is final," he said.

The cycling great will end a career in which he inspired
millions by overcoming testicular cancer to win his sport's
signature event a record six straight times. He said his will to
win a seventh straight Tour de France is boosted "by that dream to
go out on top. That's a big deal to me."

"It will be the last one, win or lose," the 33-year-old Texan
said. "While it is an older man's race, it's not an old man's
race."

Armstrong said having to spend a month away from his three
children recently helped seal the decision.

"That was much more difficult than it had been before," he
said. "They are at a stage now where they change daily, if not
hourly. ... It's time for me to not miss key moments in their
lives."

Still, come next year, Armstrong knows he'll probably want to
climb back onto the bike.

"I'll definitely have the itch now and again," he said.

Speculation regarding Armstrong's future had grown in recent
months, fueled by his comments about his children and his desire to
increase efforts in raising awareness and funds for fighting
cancer.

"Ultimately, athletes have to retire ... the body doesn't just
keep going and going," Armstrong said.

Armstrong said having to answer persistent accusations that he
has used performance-enhancing drugs had nothing to do with his
decision. Armstrong has sued a former personal assistant, Mike
Anderson, who said he found a banned substance in the rider's
apartment last year.

Monday's announcement came on the eve of Armstrong's defense of
his Tour of Georgia title. The six-day, 648-mile event he uses as a
tuneup for the Tour de France begins Tuesday in Augusta.

Armstrong said the Georgia race could be his last professional
one in America, though he left open the possibility of racing in
May at another practice event before the Tour de France.

"If there's a good local race, I'm more than happy to jump
in," he said.

Stan Holm, executive director of the Tour of Georgia, called
Armstrong "a true hero and inspiration to people all over the
world."

Armstrong was attracted to the Tour of Georgia's support for the
Georgia Cancer Coalition, the official beneficiary of the race.
Tour of Georgia officials have received more than 500 media
credential applications this year, almost twice last year's total.

Armstrong said he decided to make the announcement now, instead
of closer to July, so he could "be up front and honest with the
media, the people, the fans, not just here in America and in
Europe."

Armstrong's announcement came the same day former teammate Tyler
Hamilton was suspended from cycling for two years for a
blood-doping violation. The Olympic gold medalist forfeits all
competitive results since Sept. 11, 2004, the day of the positive
test at the Spanish Vuelta.

"In my heart, I find it very hard to believe that he did
that," Armstrong said Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show.

Armstrong's new two-year contract with Discovery Channel team
requires that he race just one more Tour de France. He says he will
continue to work as an "adviser and an ambassador" for the team.

"I think we can move forward," he said. "I think we can
develop a winner and I'll just be asking to come along and ride in
the car at the Tour de France."

And, he added, "I might not be able to sit down."