Armstrong’s legacy will Livestrong

It's not always about the bike.

It's not always about the bike.

I’m going way off The Circle with this one, but I have to comment on subjects near and dear to me – the Tour de France and Lance Armstrong.

Most people could care less about 150 guys cycling 21 stages totaling more than 2,200 miles in and around France during the first three weeks in July. But to those of us who appreciate the sport of cycling, this time of year is the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup and World Cup wrapped up into one package.

You have to ride to understand.

I actually attended the final stage in Paris, way back in 1988, and have always longed to return. The spectacle of the event can only be appreciated in person.

Thank God for television coverage on the Versus Network. It’s the only time I ever watch the station that is known for bull riding, bare-knuckle fighting and reality shows.

I find myself glued each night to the replay of the day’s stage – especially with the return of Lance Armstrong.

Although the Tour is special, it was always a spectacle when Lance Armstrong was in the yellow jersey. He retired in 2005, after winning an unprecedented seven consecutive Tours starting in 1999. He stands alone above European icons Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx, the man who many say is the best to ever ride a bicycle.

Armstrong stepped out of retirement earlier this year to compete once again, but to also help raise awareness of his life’s mission – cancer research. He says racing in the Tour de France helps him raise awareness. Most are not aware, but he is riding for the Astana team, sponsored by state-owned companies in Kazakhstan, for nothing – as a volunteer.

Armstrong’s incredible story is well known. At the age of 25, he survived testicular cancer, a tumor that metastasized to his brain, stomach and lungs, in 1996. His cancer treatments included brain and testicular surgery and extensive chemotherapy, and his prognosis was poor, given less than a 50 percent chance to survive.

Not only did he survive, but he made a commitment to raise funds for cancer research through Livestrong – The Lance Armstrong Foundation. Millions have been raised (see http://www.livestrong.org).

I participated in the first of Armstrong’s Tour of Hope cycling events and was fortunate enough to ride with the man himself for a few miles. His pace, about 20 mph, was a leisurely ride for him. It was all I could do to keep up for about 10 miles of the 50-mile ride in and around Washington, D.C.

That was one of the days locked away in the memory banks forever.

As I write this on Tuesday, July 7, Team Astana has just won the team time trial, as Armstrong predicted, and Lance is a whisper of a second away from winning the yellow jersey.

The Tour is among the most grueling of all sporting events in the world. And Armstrong, at the ripe old age of 37, is considered over the hill in the sport of cycling. Time will tell where he finishes in the overall classification.

What he has already accomplished, coming back from cancer to beat the world’s best cyclists seven times, is a feat that is unparalleled in sports.

In any case, anything else he accomplishes on a bicycle pales in comparison to Livestrong. His lasting legacy will be the extra years of life and joy granted to cancer victims and their families because of his efforts.

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