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Pedaling to inspire, Armstrong an American icon

Monday, July 25, 2005
Armstrong overcomes cancer to win Tour de France
By Hillary Wasch
Special to

Signature Race

July 3-25, 1999 - After being forced to take a break from racing because he had testicular cancer, Lance Armstrong was determined to become an even stronger cyclist than before he was stricken. The 1999 Tour de France turned out to be the perfect means to achieving that end.

The 27-year-old American started out strong, winning the opening Prologue Time Trial in convincing fashion. He finished the 6.8-kilometer (4-mile) test in eight minutes and two seconds, seven seconds faster than the runner-up.

Keeping themselves at the front of the pack, Armstrong and his United States Postal Service teammates avoided what could have been a costly crash on the Passage du Gois causeway, a pileup that removed almost half of the riders from contention.

His victory in the Stage 8 Time Trial enabled Armstrong to recapture the leader's yellow jersey. Riding with strength and tenacity in the Pyrenees and the Alps, he gained a huge lead and won the first mountain stage. He finished the last climbing stage with a commanding edge.

Armstrong won the Stage 19 Time Trial by nine seconds. When he reached the finish at the Champs-Elysees, he was draped in an American flag, 7:37 ahead of his closest opponent. Although some media and cycling fans accused Armstrong of taking performance-enhancing drugs during the Tour, most fans cheered on his accomplishment.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • After becoming involved in swimming in elementary school, Armstrong advanced so quickly that he placed fourth in Texas in the 1,500-meter freestyle.

  • He trained seriously, swimming 4,000 meters before school and 6,000 meters after. He rode his bike to and from practice, about 20 miles a day.

  • At 15, Armstrong entered the President's Team Triathlon in Texas and finished 32nd against mostly older athletes. He began racing in triathlons as often as possible, even forging his age to enter races that had age limitations.

  • In the fall of his senior year of high school, Armstrong entered a 12-mile time trial in Moriarty, N.M. He not only won, he beat the course record by 45 seconds.

  • Because Armstrong traveled with the U.S. Cycling Federation, he almost did not graduate high school on time because of excessive absences. He had to transfer to a private school in order to complete his classes and graduate.

  • Armstrong finished second at the U.S. time trials for the 1992 Olympics.

  • In 1995, Armstrong won Stage 18 and completed his first Tour de France, finishing 36th.

  • At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, he came in sixth in the time trial and 12th in the road race, finishes that were not up to his expectations. Soon afterwards, Armstrong learned he had cancer.

  • Armstrong is a spokesperson for testicular cancer. In 1997, he formed the Lance Armstrong Foundation to benefit cancer research.

  • In 2002, the foundation raised about $2.7 million, bringing its total to a reported $23 million.

  • Armstrong skipped the 1998 Tour de France, which was marked by a scandal involving EPO and anabolic steroids. Six of the 21 teams quit the event in protest of the tactics used by racing officials who wanted to make sure the race was clean.

  • In 2000, Armstrong finished second at the Paris-Camembert race, and third in both the French Dauphine Libere and Classique des Alpes races.

  • At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Armstrong won a bronze medal in the time trial.

  • In 2001, Armstrong made $15 million, most of it from endorsements.

  • After his fourth win, Armstrong was named Sports Illustrated's "Sportsman of the Year" in 2002.

  • When he won his sixth Tour de France in 2004, Armstrong broke the record he shared with Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain and Eddy Merckx.

  • The three children of Armstrong and his wife Kristin were conceived in-vitro as Armstrong, aware that post-operative chemotherapy might make him sterile, had gone to a sperm bank two days after his first cancer operation.

  • Armstrong and Kristin separated in January 2003, but reconciled in the spring. However, things didn't work out and they divorced later in 2003.

  • Armstrong began dating rock star Sheryl Crow in 2003 after meeting her at a charity event in Las Vegas.

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