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Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong (born September 18, 1971, Plano, Texas) is an American cyclist. After surviving cancer, he has won the Tour de France four consecutive times, from 1999 to 2002.

Raised by his mother, Linda, whose spirit and independence Armstrong has often cited as his greatest influence, Armstrong began his sporting career as a triathlete, competing in seniors' competitions from age 16. It soon became clear, however, that his greatest talent lay in the cycling leg of the event.

After competing as a cycling amateur - winning the US amateur championship in 1991 and finishing 14th in the 1992 Olympics road race - Armstrong turned professional in 1992. The following year already, he scored his first major victory as he rode solo to win the World Championships on the Road in Oslo, Norway.

His successes continued, winning a stage in the 1995 Tour de France and several classic one-day events. In 1996, however, it was announced that Armstrong suffered of testicular cancer that had metastasized. He was given a 50% chance of survival and managed to recover after invasive surgery to remove brain lesions, and a severe course of chemotherapy. Whilst in remission he resumed training, but found himself unceremoniously, if unsurprisingly, dropped by his Cofidis team. He was eventually signed by the newly formed US Postal Service team, and by 1998, he was able to make his successful return in the cycling world.

His true comeback came in 1999, as he won the Tour de France for the first time, a performance he repeated in the three following seasons. Armstrong has proved all but invincible during this time, due to his unique ability both as a time triallist and a mountain climber. Pedalling very quickly in a very low gear, he is able to rapidly accelerate away from his main rivals who tend to use higher gears but pedal more slowly. Armstrong can maintain incredible speeds even when going up the most daunting climbs of the Tour and even specialist climbers such as Roberto Heras[?] are unable to keep pace with him on a consistent basis.

However, unlike most gifted climbers, Armstrong is also exceptional in the individual time trial, as good as, if not better than those physically more suited to the discipline, such as Jan Ullrich[?]. Also, unlike many of the past winners of the Tour, Armstrong is very aggressive during the moutainous stages - preferring to take the lead and attack spectacularly. Although these attacks usually come towards the end of stages, he is capable of opening huge gaps over his rivals and leaving the rest of the field scattered behind him down the moutainside.

Armstrong is, without doubt, one of the greatest riders of all time and his achievements are made all the more remarkable in the light of the illness he suffered. It is expected that he will try to go for a record sixth Tour win, which would beat current record holders Jacques Anquetil[?], Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault[?] and Miguel Indurain[?], who all have five wins.

In 2002, Sports Illustrated magazine named Armstrong their Sportsman of the Year.

Reading

  • Lance Armstrong, Sally Jenkins: It's Not About The Bike, Putnam 2000. Armstrong's own account of his battle with cancer and subsequent triumphant return to bike racing.

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