07/26/05 — Sacre bleu! Lance Armstrong, pedaler of pride

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Sacre bleu! Lance Armstrong, pedaler of pride

They are saying that Lance Armstrong worked a miracle. He did. Who else could have forced the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” on the Champs Elysees?

But, of course, that isn’t the miracle that most people are talking about. The miracle they are talking about is Armstrong’s seventh consecutive victory in the Tour de France, the 3,500-kilometer bicycle race.

That’s 2,170 miles, more than a hundred miles a day over 21 days across every kind of terrain that France has, which is just about every kind there is, including uphill.

It is a grueling race, and amongst the cycling devotees worldwide, that unbroken string of victories is phenomenal enough. What turns it from phenomenon to miracle is Armstrong’s background as a cancer victim.

In 1996, when he was 24, doctors found that he had testicular cancer and that it had spread to his lungs and brain. He was not expected to survive, much less enter the Tour de France, much less win it seven times.

But he underwent surgery and chemotheropy, and when his cancer was in remission he resumed his training. He moved from his hometown, Austin, Texas, to France twice while having changes of heart about whether to return to cycling and enter le Tour.

Eventually, he was signed by a team sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service, now sponsored by the Discovery Channel. He credits the team with helping him win the Tours des France, but some of the signature sprints that often put him ahead of his competitors also put him far in front of his teammates as well.

Armstrong has done it largely on his own. Once he overcame cancer, he refused to be sidelined. He worked so relentlessly to regain his former ability than he ultimately exceeded it.

During training he would ride every leg of an upcoming race. He uses his own fast-pumping style of pedaling. He kept his body in peak condition.

Even those of us who are not fans of cycling must admire Lance Armstrong for his indefatigable spirit, and for giving those French pedalers a good old Texas whuppin’, seven times.

Published in Editorials on July 26, 2005 10:56 AM