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To say Armstrong outworks everyone is like saying RuPaul owns more lingerie than most men. When Armstrong and his family--wife Kristin, three-year-old son Luke and twin one-year-old girls Isabelle and Grace--move to their second home in Gerona, Spain, in mid-February, he'll get serious. In fact, Armstrong works so hard that he's dangerous to everybody else. Two years ago U.S. Postal Service team director Johan Bruyneel let two of his best climbers train with Armstrong. "By the time the Tour de France started, they were injured and worn out," Bruyneel groans. "We almost lost them." Now Bruyneel lets Armstrong train with the team only two days out of three. "The other day he's on his own."
University of Texas exercise physiologist Ed Coyle, who has tested athletes for 20 years, says that Armstrong at 31 produces 6% more power than he did at 21, despite weighing 15 pounds less. This is what comes from tooling through the Pyrenees on a bike five, six and seven hours a day, never less than 30 hours a week. Most people don't sit at their computers 30 hours a week, much less on a five-inch bike seat.
Coyle also discovered that Armstrong can ride a bike 32 miles per hour for one hour straight. The average healthy and fit college male can keep up that pace for approximately 45 seconds. "For the first 10 seconds they're great," says Coyle. "After about 20 seconds they think they're gonna die. After 40 seconds they throw up."
Among professional athletes Armstrong is mythic. Dale Purinton, a defenseman for the New York Rangers, says he heard that Armstrong could ride a Cybex bike at 270 rpm for an hour. "So I tried it," says Purinton, 26. "I kept it up for two minutes; then I had to quit. I was totally exhausted. My whole body was aching. The man is not human."
That's where people screw up. It's not Armstrong's body that wins Tours. It's his will. Take, for instance, Alpe d'Huez, a 21-hairpin, 6,060-foot bitch that will be the key climb in next year's Tour. Armstrong knows the first name of every mountain goat on it. He's climbed it 10 times already and will do it twice more this spring before the Tour.
Meanwhile, in July 2002, Armstrong's chief rival, Germany's Jan Ullrich, tested positive for amphetamines, which he says came from popping the party drug Ecstasy one night, which got him suspended by his Telekom team, which he subsequently left over a contract dispute. (He would sign with T-Mobile in October 2003.)
If somebody on Armstrong's team were to pop Ecstasy, Armstrong might rip out his heart with a toe clip. Teammates call him Mellow Johnny--a play on the maillot jaune, French for the yellow jersey the Tour leader wears (Armstrong even registers in hotels as Jonathan Mellow)--but he is anything but. He hates losing, laziness and whining, in that order. Take whining. If the Texan comes down to the breakfast room during the Tour and hears teammates complaining about lousy weather, he boils. "Hey!" he says. "If you don't want to get on your bike today, we'll find somebody who f------ does, O.K.?"
But he knows when to dial back the pressure too. One day, during a particularly murderous Alpine climb on the Tour, he got on the nine-way radio and hollered, "Johan! Johan! I need a mechanic, quick!"
Panicked, Bruyneel yelled, "What's wrong, Lance?" �Armstrong said, "I don't think there's a chain on my bike! They forgot the chain!" �In 1999 Abraham Olano of Spain switched to a lighter bike at the bottom of Alpe d'Huez, and Bruyneel radioed from ahead, "Lance! Olano's switching bikes!" �Armstrong barked back, "I could beat Olano on a f------ mountain bike--with knobby tires!" �He stuck with the bike he was on and beat Olano, by a minute and 39 seconds.
LANCE ARMSTRONG, WORLD-FAMOUS CELEBRITY!