Armstrong said, "Hey, man, you got to think about yourself right now. You have to. Look at your wife. She's standing right over there. See her? She's healthy. You let your wife worry about herself and the kids, and you pour every ounce of strength you have into yourself. 'Cause if you don't, you won't be around to worry about your wife and kids again."
His letters go like that too. If you expect a note from Lance Armstrong, Spiritual Healer, you'll be disappointed. "Time to kick ass," he'll write. Or "Time to give it your all." Or "Never give up."
Lance Armstrong is more than a bicyclist now, more than an athlete. He's become a kind of hope machine. About 300 pieces of mail find their way to him each week. They come from people who are suddenly pale-yellow versions of themselves, half gone from chemo, scared to die. They see a man who once sat around the same chemo rooms as theirs, but now he's winning stages on the tops of Alps. They read his book, plug into his story, let him block the wind. He welcomes it. He wants to lead them. He calls it "the obligation of the cured." And every time he rides, he feels like they ride with him.
LANCE ARMSTRONG, IMMORTAL!
We're practically flying now, skidding around corners, blowing through red lights. This is nuts even for Mellow Johnny: 110 miles per hour. Of course, we're in his Mercedes 500 SL on our way to the private plane that he has hired for the day (at a cost of $15,000) to fly to Lincoln, Neb., to help Bono raise awareness of the AIDS that's devouring Africa.
"We want Lance," Bono says when we get there, "because Lance awakens in America the idea of the impossible made possible." The U2 star called on Friday, and now it's Sunday, and somehow the Texas Tornado squeezed this appearance into his schedule. "Lance doesn't have a to-do list," says Craig Nichols, the oncologist who saved his life. "Things just get done, right now."
But it makes you worry about Action Boy. What will he do when this is all over? He says, cryptically, that he will ride "a couple few" more Tours de France, which means two or three more, max. If he could win the next two, then he would be the only man ever to have won six. But Indur�in lost going for his sixth at age 32--the same age Armstrong would be if he went for his sixth--and never rode one again. �"Six?" he says. "I don't talk about six. That's bad juju, man. It's just math. You can't get to six without going through five. All I care about is five."
Already, in the most Mr. Millimeter of ways, he is letting his buzz-cut hair down. These days, if he has a lead of "one minute or more" with three stages left, he says, he'll allow himself a beer and a dish of ice cream at night. Party! He talks about the day when he can spend the three weeks of the Tour de France "with my family on the beach." He shows more and more people his new land at Dripping Springs, Texas, where he likes to stand at the top of a 50-foot cliff and jump into a lake known as Dead Man's Hole. Yeah, you get addicted to that edge, don't you?
"A little fear is good for you," he says. And his life will never be without it. "There have been times when he's feeling lousy," says his agent, Stapleton, "and he runs off and gets it checked out. I think he still worries about it." �Discussing it qualifies as bad juju too, except to say, "I will never show my back to choriocarcinoma. It's the most evil, most disgusting kind of cancer there is. I know its track record. It's a bastard." �Still, what will Mellow Johnny do when there's no mountain range to dance up and no Frenchmen to stare down? Keep pedaling or you die, right? But where do you pedal when there's nowhere new to go? �"Space," he says with that schoolboy grin. "I'd love to go into space. I don't know if they'd let me, but that would be a real adventure. The preparation would be cool. There'd be some fun suffering in that, don't you think?" Lance Armstrong. That's a very good name for an astronaut.