Reprinted from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, December 16, 2002
What's the deal with that name, anyway? Lance Armstrong. Is that a comic-book hero or a bendable action figure? Once somebody gives you a name like that, how hard can life be? Lance Armstrong. Wasn't he the star of those 1950s boys' sports books? �
LANCE ARMSTRONG, ALL-AMERICAN HERO! �
So why has this redneck in the six-wheel, gun-rack pickup pulled over, ready to kick Lance Armstrong's ass? � Armstrong is on his bike on a two-lane stretch of pecan stands and roadkill east of his hometown, Austin. But then, Armstrong is always on his bike. It's not about the bike? It's all about the bike. Hell, just to tell him he's the 2002 Sportsman of the Year we had to reach him on his bike. Told him over the cellphone he carries in his jersey pouch.
US: Hey, Lance, congratulations. You're the Sportsman of the Year.
HIM: Hold on. Gotta pass this semi. [Pause.] O.K., now, what?
This is his third hour on the bike today, and the Tour de France isn't for seven months. This is not natural. No other racer in the world is doing this. The other day, in fact, Armstrong was riding along when the cellphone rang. It was the young British bike star David Millar, two-time Tour de France stage winner, calling from London, "drunk on his ass," Armstrong reports.
MILLAR: Please tell me you're not on your bike.
ARMSTRONG: I'm on my bike.
MILLAR: Nooooo! You mother! It's December bloody first! How long have you been on it?