Armstrong, Lance 1971-
ARMSTRONG, Lance 1971-
PERSONAL: Born September 18, 1971, in Plano, TX; son of Linda Walling; married Kristin Richard, May 8, 1998; children: Luke, Isabelle Rose, Grace Elizabeth.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Lance Armstrong Foundation, P.O. Box 13026, Austin, TX 78711.
CAREER: Professional cyclist.
AWARDS, HONORS: Triathlete Rookie of the Year, 1988; World Road-Racing Champion, 1993; U.S. Professional Champion, 1993; winner, Tour DuPont, 1995; Velo New American Male Cyclist of the Year, 1995; winner, Tour de Luxembourg, Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfarht (Germany), and Cascade Classic (Oregon), all 1998; winner, Tour de France, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002.
(With Sally Jenkins) It's Not About the Bike: MyJourney Back to Life, Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Chris Carmichael and Peter Joffre Nye) TheLance Armstrong Performance Program: Seven Weeks to the Perfect Ride, Rodale (Emmaus, PA), 2000.
ADAPTATIONS: It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life was made into an audio recording read by Oliver Wyman, Highbridge, 2000.
SIDELIGHTS: Sometimes referred to as the "Golden Boy of American Cycling," Lance Armstrong is a world champion bicycle racer. As a four-time consecutive winner of the most prestigious cycling race, the Tour de France, Armstrong has become one of the most celebrated athletes in the world. But his biggest hurdle in life was not becoming a champion bicyclist. In his autobiography, It's Not about the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, Armstrong makes it clear that his toughest fight—and the one that has had the most lasting impact on him—was his battle with testicular cancer.
From a young age, Armstrong showed that he was a natural athlete. By the time he was thirteen years old, he had won the Iron Kids Triathlon, and he turned professional triathlete when he was just sixteen. His unusual success led him to be tested by the Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research in Houston, Texas, where the researchers discovered that the young athletic phenomenon was in the top two percent of all humans in terms of his cardiovascular system and ability to take in oxygen.
Although he was earning nearly $20,000 a year as a triathlete by the time he was seventeen, Armstrong was most drawn to the cycling segment of the triathlon. By the time he reached his senior year in high school, he was devoted to cycling. He quickly rose in the amateur ranks, becoming the U.S. National Amateur Champion in 1991. His switch to professional cycling was not immediately successful, but Armstrong's natural talents and his inner drive soon led him to numerous championships and titles. In 1992, at the age of twenty-one, Armstrong became the youngest cyclist ever to win a stage of the Tour de France. The following year he won the 1993 World Championship.
As Armstrong explains in his autobiography, however, his life was about to be turned upside down. Armstrong began to have pain and swelling in his groin but did not seek medical help because he thought it was related to his long hours on a bicycle during training. But in 1996, at the age of twenty-five, Armstrong woke up one morning to find himself coughing blood, and his right testicle began to swell. A visit to the doctor not only confirmed that he had testicular cancer, but that it had spread to his brain and lungs. He was given only a fifty percent chance of survival. In his book, Armstrong outlines his decision to "fight like hell." Armstrong's emotional turmoil as he faced the diagnosis of cancer and his battle with the disease through chemotherapy and ultimate remission make up the core of his autobiography.
Armstrong readily admits that as an elite athlete he shared many traits with other such athletes, including a sense of arrogance. Because of their self-image of invincibility, Armstrong writes that he and other athletes are not "especially kind, considerate, merciful, benign, lenient, or forgiving, to themselves or anyone around them." However, about the night following his diagnosis, Armstrong writes, "As I sat in my house alone that first night, it was humbling to be so scared. More than that it was humanizing."
Aided by family and friends, Armstrong turned his attention to overcoming his cancer, learning all he could about the disease. Doctors eventually offered him two alternative courses of treatment. A medical doctor from Vanderbilt University who was a bicycling enthusiast had heard about Armstrong's illness. He wrote to tell Armstrong that the standard treatment could scar his lungs, reducing their size and essentially ending any hopes he would have of returning to bicycle racing. Armstrong chose a second chemotherapy regiment that, although more aggressive with more short-term side effects, would have little effect on his lungs.
As his therapy began to take effect, Armstrong once again began thinking about racing and was training a mere five months after his diagnosis. But his comeback wasn't easy. In his autobiography, he writes, "Deep down, I wasn't ready. Had I understood more about survivorship, I would have recognized that my comeback attempt was bound to be fraught with psychological problems." Armstrong notes that he was burdened by "doubt, and some buried resentment, too." Part of the resentment stemmed from his decreased salary and ability to make money through endorsements. "I sarcastically called it an 80-percent cancer tax," Armstrong writes. Although he had been training and felt that he was in good physical condition, Armstrong found himself uncharacteristically quitting a race when he dropped out of the Paris-Nice competition during a cold day in the pouring rain. Armstrong returned to his home in Austin, Texas, with the intention of never racing again. But a trip to North Carolina with an old riding friend to train for a few "farewell" races, Armstrong's desire to be a champion returned.
Armstrong, who started the Lance Armstrong Foundation to raise cancer awareness and funds for cancer research, soon was not only celebrating a victory over cancer but was "officially" back into professional racing. He went on to win or place in several national events, including winning the Tour de Luxembourg and taking fourth place in the especially grueling three-week Vuelta España. But the best was yet to come. The following year Armstrong became the second American to win the Tour de France, the most prestigious bicycle race in the world. A year after his autobiography was published, Armstrong won his second Tour de France and has since gone on to win the race in 2001 and 2002.
Writing about Armstrong's autobiography in the Times Literary Supplement, Graham Robb noted, "Each part of the story—'growing up, fighting cancer and becoming a world-class cyclist'—serves as a metaphor of the others: the hero loses his illusions, develops a more sophisticated approach to cycling and human relationships, and turns his self-destruction to profit." In a review for the School Library Journal, Katherine Fitch called the book a "fabulous tribute to the strength of the human spirit" and an "inspiration to everyone." John Maxymuk, writing in the Library Journal, called Armstrong's writing style "vibrant and immediate whether he is detailing events from childhood, racing challenges, the demands of cancer treatment, the in vitro fertilization process, or the joy of becoming a father." A Publishers Weekly reviewer also noted the book's "disarming and spotless prose style, one far above par for sports memoirs."
Armstrong has continued to be the most accomplished and recognized names in cycling, a feat directly attributable to his reputation for training harder than any of his contemporaries. As for his dedication to cycling, Armstrong explained it succinctly to Michael Hall in Texas Monthly. "It's a hard sport," he said. "It isn't basketball, it's not football, it's not baseball. It's five, six hours in the hills and mountains. And you know what? You gotta love it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armstrong, Lance, and Sally Jenkins, It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.
Biography, fall, 2000, review of It's Not About theBike: My Journey Back to Life, p. 788.
Booklist, May 15, 2000, Brenda Barrera, review of It'sNot About the Bike, p. 1689; September 1, 2000, Brenda Barrera, review of The Lance Armstrong Performance Program: 7 Weeks to the Perfect Ride, p. 48.
Current Health 2, March, 2001, Scott Ingram, "Lance Armstrong: Super Cyclist and Survivor," p. 13.
Library Journal, June 15, 2000, John Maxymuk, review of It's Not About the Bike, p. 89.
Publishers Weekly, May 15, 2000, review of It's NotAbout the Bike, p. 106; August 7, 2000, review of The Lance Armstrong Performance Program, p. 92.
School Library Journal, January, 2001, Katherine Fitch, review of It's Not about the Bike, p. 161.
Sport Illustrated, September 17, 2001, Kelli Anderson, "Return of the Hero: Riding a Surge of American Interest, Lance Armstrong's First U.S. Race in Years Stirred Up a Huge Crowd," p. 3.
Texas Monthly, July, 2001, Michael Hall, "Lance Armstrong Has Something to Get fff His Chest," p. 70.
Times Literary Supplement, December 8, 2000, Graham Robb, "Tour de Force," p. 36.
Lance Armstrong Web site,http://www.lancearmstrong.com/ (May 19, 2003).*