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For Armstrong, Tour de France a tour de force



Published: Tue, July 31, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



You get on your bicycle in Youngstown one Sunday and start pedaling. Three weeks later -- across vast stretches of countryside, over the mountains, some days logging more than 130 miles, with only a couple of days of rest -- you arrive in Los Angeles, more than 2,100 miles away in the fastest time. If you can envision such a feat, you can imagine what it took for Lance Armstrong to win the Tours de France, the world's premiere bicycle race.

What's more, the 29-year-old Texan has now taken the biggest gem in bicycle racing's crown for the third year in a row.

Not bad for a young man who five years ago was given a 50-50 chance to survive advanced testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and his brain, but who endured surgery and aggressive chemo therapy to return to the sport he loved.

In the rough and tumble world of professional athletics -- although cycling is far more gentile than most sports -- Armstrong is in a class of his own.

When his closest rival fell during one stage of the race, Armstrong slowed down to give him a chance to get back up, asking if he was all right.

Further, because pro cycling is an international sport, Armstrong endears himself to his foreign competitors and host countries speaking French and Spanish as the situation arises.

But his contributions extend far beyond the world's racing courses. After Armstrong conquered his own cancer, he established the Lance Armstrong Foundation to help people manage and survive cancer, to reduce the presence of cancer worldwide; and to improve cancer survivor services.

When the Armstrong Foundation was founded in 1997, his cycling friends began what they called "The Ride for the Roses" inviting the public to help fight cancer by joining them on what was once their training ride with Lance through the Austin countryside. Now a weekend full of activities, this year's raised over $1 million for the foundation's programs and services.

Heed warning signs: Armstrong, who ignored his own cancer's early warning signs, now particularly encourages young men to seek medical attention for testicular pain earlier rather than later.

And one other thing. Armstrong and his U.S. Postal Service teammates all wear helmets. If helmets are necessary for cycling professionals, they ought to be necessary for Ohio's kids.




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