Exclusive Interview with Lance Armstrong
What can’t you say about Lance Armstrong? Cancer survivor, seven time Tour de France winner, and bestselling author. The man is so famous that he is simply known to most people by his first name. Associated Press has named him ‘Male Athlete of the Year’ no less than four times and Time Magazine nominated him as one of the 100 most influential people. He is on first name basis with several ex United States presidents, has dated a number of celebrity women but still manages to be ‘of the people.’
As he has said himself, if a Hollywood script writer penned his story, it would be thrown out as too fantastic. A young athlete, recently crowned World Champion is diagnosed with life threatening cancer. He is given a 20% chance of survival. He undergoes a savage course of chemotherapy and returns to the sport not only to win the greatest race in the world, but to win it a record seven times. It has to be one of the most wonderful stories of the twentieth century. So good that, his autobiography ‘It’s Not About the Bike’ went tonumber one on the New York Times bestseller list. With all this, seven Tour victories, which may never be beaten, a mansion in Texas, your own plane and a foundation to keep you occupied, why would you make a comeback? All the evidence points against its success. Look at Michael Jordan. Look at Tony Lockett. But Armstrong feels differently. He says the whole purpose of his comeback is to promote cancer awareness.
In an interview immediately after announcing the comeback he said “If you win an eighth Tour and have the Livestrong International Summit in Paris and nobody shows up and no commitments are made and we don’t effect change in terms of the global burden, then I’ve wasted everybody’s time. However, if you don’t do the Tour, or you do the Tour and you get fourth, and the summit is a smashing success and people participate, and world leaders make commitments that really go towards advancing this issue, then that’s a success.” Going through the pictures for this article, one thing really stands out and that is the look of determination in Lance’s eyes. Here is a man who knows what he is doing, is confident in his abilities and comfortable with his decision. Fortunately for us, Lance will begin his comeback at the Tour Down Under in Adelaide and the city is already buzzing. Cycling Australia report that an unprecedented number of international journalists and photographers have applied for accreditation to follow the Armstrong circus. Whichever way you look at it, this comeback beginning in Australia must raise the profile of the sport in this country. We caught up with Lance, just as he was getting into full training with long time coach and mentor, Chris Carmichael.
Lance Armstrong, thank you very much for your time.
Bicycling Australia: Let’s talk cancer first. You said that the main reason you wish to return to professional cycling is to promote cancer awareness throughout the world. Given that you are already one of, if not the most famous cancer survivor, how do you hope to improve on what you’ve already achieved?
Lance Armstrong: For approximately two years the LAF (Lance Armstrong Foundation) conducted a series of interviews and research around the world as it relates to cancer. The results were astounding. There is still a stigma in many places that cancer is contagious or that if you had it is an automatic death sentence. These stigmas and attitudes need to be corrected. That is the goal of the global mission.
BA: Do you know how much the Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised since its inception?
LA: Yep I sure do. To date the LAF has raised over US$260 million dollars.
BA: Can you tell us some of the results that you’ve seen as a direct result of your foundation?
LA: There have been many improvements since the inception of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. But I think the one that I am most proud of is the passing of Proposition 15 in Texas. Last year the voters of Texas went to the polls and passed a three billion dollar ballot initiative that will allow cutting edge cancer research to be conducted in Texas laboratories. This will ensure that proven discoveries are delivered to all segments of the population in local communities across the state. It was the success of Prop 15 that allowed us to focus our efforts across the USA and now hopefully on a global scale.
BA: Were there other reasons for your choice to make a comeback?
Such as unfinished business? Boredom? Any others?
LA: Nope. Nothing along those lines. I felt good on the mountain bike and felt like my body was still in good shape. I felt it was possible for me to do it, so I did. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I couldn’t compete.
BA: Once the idea came into your head to ride professionally again, how long did you think it over before deciding, “Yes, I’ll do it!”?
LA: Well, I had a great result at a mountain bike race in Colorado called the Leadville 100 ( The Leadville 100 is an incredibly tough, 100 mile race in the Rocky Mountains. Lance finished second. Ed). I felt like I could compete but more importantly, I felt motivated to compete. After that race I discussed it with Kik (Lance’s former wife), and my three children. Once they gave the okay my mind was made up.