September 07, 2005 09:00 AM

Despite announcing his retirement plans, a hopping mad Lance Armstrong may be hopping back on his bike to race, after all.

The 33-year-old champ, who won his seventh consecutive Tour de France on July 24, says “the recent smear campaign out of France” that before the 1999 Tour he tested positive for the banned enhancement substance EPO “has awoken my competitive side” – to the point that he may race again.

“The chances are not high,” he tells The New York Times. “There’s no number, no percentage I can put on it. Until two weeks ago, they were zero. Now, I no longer rule it out.”

Armstrong, who denies the EPO charges, calls this a matter of “pride. I can’t guarantee I won’t go back. I just don’t know where it stands at the moment.”

He adds, “This is probably perceived as a joke, and it’s not a joke.”

Earlier this week, Armstrong announced his engagement to rocker Sheryl Crow, 43, with a wedding most likely to happen in the spring. The proposal came on Aug. 31, while the two were in Sun Valley, Idaho.

“I learn so much from Lance’s determination to live life every minute to the fullest,” Crow told PEOPLE in June. “Besides, he’s hot.”

The couple met at a charity event in October 2003 and began dating a short time later. This will be Crow’s first marriage and Armstrong’s second. He has three children with his ex-wife, Kristen.

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