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ARMSTRONG: Three and a half hours.
Armstrong can't help it. "I gotta suffer a little every day or I'm not happy," he says. So he stays on his racing bike for as many as six hours some days. Or he takes his mountain bike through the gnarliest trails that Texas has to offer, swearing at himself because he's not going harder: "You pussy, Lance!" Apparently some people are unclear about the meaning of the term off-season.
He suffers so he won't forget. He suffers to remind himself that he's still alive. He suffers a little so that maybe the big suffering won't come back, the suffering that came with 14 tumors in his testicle, lungs and brain and with moments when he knew he was going to die.
So he gets his 31-year-old hump out on the bike hour after hour, followed by the chase car, a trusty Suburban. Problem is, Texans in trucks would sooner piss on a biker than have to wait to get by him. That's why the man who won his fourth straight Tour de France in July has been hit six times by cars; has had Big Gulps, pop cans and one-finger salutes thrown at him; and has heard every permutation of the f word known to linguists. One guy got out of his truck and started swinging a baseball bat at Armstrong.
Which brings us to Mr. Six Wheel, who is so hacked off that when he finally gets by, he fires a few $#*&%'s at Armstrong and then speeds up to a T-junction and parks across it, trying to block the way. Armstrong zips by him on the gravel on the right, and the Suburban passes on the left, and something in Armstrong's bulldog jaw keeps the guy from coming after him. �And you thought the Alps were hairy.
LANCE ARMSTRONG, ROBORIDER!
Funny how nobody ever asks to feel the two six-inch-long, quarter-inch-deep horseshoe dents in Armstrong's skull where the surgeons drilled. Or the scar on his chest from the catheter. Or the dozens of scars the pavement has left on him. It's hard for people to understand that Lance Armstrong is not the cartoon that replaced Jonny Quest. He falls, he aches, he loses.
When Armstrong got whipped at the 2000 Sydney Olympics time-trial event--he took bronze--it shocked the friends and associates who'd never seen him do anything but win. That night, at a party with all of them, he stopped the music, stood up and said, "I came here to win, and I didn't. I know you expected better. You went the extra mile for me, to come clear out here, and I lost, and I'm sorry about that."
You mean sometimes the lion gets eaten? "It was a reminder to all of us that the guy is not Superman," says his agent and longtime friend, Bill Stapleton. "He's just a guy who happens to work harder than anybody else alive."