Lance Armstrong will be 50 years old next year, God willing.
1n 1996, at the age of 25, Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with stage-three testicular cancer. After surgery and chemotherapy his doctors gave him “almost no chance” of survival. When pressed at the time, the medical response was “perhaps as high as a 20% change for recovery”. I guess he beat those odds.
Lance Armstrong went on to beat a lot of other odds against him and to beat a world-full of elite bicyclists every summer at the Tour de France. From 1999 to 2005, Lance was just plain unbeatable. He won 7 consecutive TDF titles. He beat the best cyclists from France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Demark and the United States. For seven years he rode the 21 daily segments, over 23 days with amazing consistency. 2,200 miles of bike riding, at an average of 25 miles per hour, over 3 weeks, in the heat and the rain, through valleys and over the alps; over 100+ miles per day every day… If you watched the TV broadcasts every June and July morning as I did during those years, you were truly amazed at Lance’s determination and endurance and consistency. Unfortunately, as we learned in 2013, years after his retirement from the sport, his endurance was apparently affected by performance enhancing drugs. Lance Armstrong was stripped of all of his victories and titles, including the seven Tour de France accomplishments.
Ok, ok. Lance Armstrong had cheated, and used drugs; now acknowledged. But what is generally not mentioned alongside this sad story is that 20 of the 21 podium winners over those 7 years ALSO used performance enhancing drugs. In other words, of the 21 top finishers at the Tour during those 7 years, only ONE was not on PID’s. Sort of puts the whole story into perspective, doesn’t it?
Despite the fact Lance Armstrong no longer is considered a Tour de France champion, I must admit it does not diminish his accomplishments. It doesn’t make me consider my many early morning hours in front of the TV as wasted time. For sure, it inspired me to continue riding my bike. I have never won a bike race, or even been in one for that matter. But Lance’s accomplishments kept me thinking that if he could do those 100+ mile rides day after day, up the highest, windiest roads in three countries for 3 weeks, I could at least commit to an hour a day of an out-and-back along 10 or 12 miles of the Carlsbad/Oceanside coast (elevation gain = 0).
(I just read that Tour for this year has been postponed to late August through September. I believe it is the first time the race has ever been delayed or canceled).
To this day, for the last 20 years or so, I still watch the Tour de France every summer morning. I am not that familiar with the new names on the Tour, and I don’t follow the other international events staged throughout the year. But I do follow the Tour. For 23 days a year, I am a professional bike-racing fan.
Lance Armstrong survived. He overcame a deadly cancer and went on to be the biggest name in international bicycling during my generation. SSOMG gives Lance the credit for keeping us on our bikes over the last 20 years; you can’t take that away from him.