Armstrong's Participation In NM Race Back On - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Armstrong's Participation In NM Race Back On

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ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (AP) - Lance Armstrong will compete in the Tour of the Gila after all, the seven-time Tour de France champion's first race since breaking his collarbone in a crash last month.

Race director Jack Brennan said Tuesday that Armstrong and Astana teammates Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner will be allowed to compete at this week's event after USA Cycling reached an agreement with the International Cycling Union.

USA Cycling spokesman Andy Lee confirmed a deal was in place, one day after the UCI informed race organizers of a rule that bars top professional teams like Astana from sending organized squads to national-level races.

The compromise allows up to three members of a pro team to race individually without a team car or team director.

Brennan said the Astana riders will race wearing jerseys representing Mellow Johnnys, Armstrong's bike store in Austin, Texas. The BMC team that had entered an eight-man squad will also be allowed three members and must wear neutral jerseys.

Armstrong wrote early Tuesday on his Twitter feed that he was "Down at @mellowjohnnys grabbing some jerseys, etc. to race in..."

The Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico, runs Wednesday through Sunday.

Armstrong broke his collarbone during the Vuelta of Castilla and Leon in Spain on March 23 and had surgery two days later. A stainless steel plate and 12 screws were inserted to stabilize it, and the American star has been working toward the Giro d'Italia beginning May 9.

The agreement allowing the Astana teammates to race in New Mexico was forged by USA Cycling's chief operating officer, Sean Petty, and UCI president Pat McQuaid in Europe, where they were attending UCI road meetings.

"Sean had significant discussions with the UCI," Lee said. "Ultimately, USA Cycling and the UCI worked together to find a resolution."

UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani said the agreement involved an existing USA Cycling rule allowing the federation's chief executive to authorize up to three American riders of any team to compete as individuals with a neutral jersey in American national stage races. He said Petty alerted McQuaid to the rule.

"I thought it was a lost cause, but Sean Petty went to bat for us," Brennan said.

Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens said team general manager Johan Bruyneel was traveling Tuesday to New Mexico. He said the team hopes to give a boost to cycling in the United States while using the Gila race as a Giro warmup.

"It's 100 percent preparation for the Giro," Maertens said. "As our riders are there as individuals, it will be impossible to control the race to win. Maybe a stage win - there is a time trial and Levi is a specialist. You never know."

The deal was hailed on the American side, where the most visible rider in the sport will lend some significant star power to the Tour of the Gila.

"Any opportunity Lance has to race in the United States is a good thing," Lee said. "And for him to compete in the Tour of the Gila along with Levi and Chris, that's good for racing in America."

Brennan said it was important to work out an agreement because races elsewhere in the United States have had similar issues with professional teams.

"They are trying to resolve this issue now or work toward a resolution so other promoters are not caught in the same situation," Brennan said. "It would be good for the sport to work this thing out."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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