Armstrong, Lance

born Sept. 18, 1971, Plano, Texas, U.S.

American cyclist and the first rider to win six Tour de France titles (1999–2004).

Armstrong began his professional cycling career in 1992 when he joined the Motorola team. He won stages of the Tour de France in 1993 and 1995 but withdrew from three of four Tours he attempted from 1993 to 1996. After the 1996 Tour, Armstrong fell ill, suffering from testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. Months of treatments followed before he could attempt his comeback. In 1998 he won the Tour of Luxembourg, and on July 25, 1999, he became the second American to win the Tour de France and the first to win it for an American team (three-time winner Greg LeMond had raced with European teams). In 2003 he won his fifth consecutive Tour de France, tying a record set by Miguel Indurain, and the following year he broke the record with his sixth consecutive win.

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▪ 2000

      On July 25, 1999, cyclist Lance Armstrong became the second American ever to win the 20-stage Tour de France, the sport's most prestigious race, and the first to win for an American team (three-time winner Greg LeMond had raced with European teams). Riding with the U.S. Postal Service team, 27-year-old Armstrong won the opening stage and all three time trials of the 3,630-km (2,254-mi), 22-day race, going on to win by 7 min 37 sec. When he crossed the finish line on the Champs-Élysées, Armstrong, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, stated, “My victory is a miracle, a miracle of medicine.” Less than three years earlier, he had been diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer. After the race, he fought allegations of doping because traces of a banned substance, corticosteroid, from a prescription skin cream he used for saddle sores, were found in his urine. The Union Cycliste Internationale cleared him, but he continued to endure accusations of doping, especially from the French press.

      Armstrong was born in Plano, Texas, on Sept. 18, 1971, and entered sports at a young age, excelling in both swimming and cycling. By the time he was a teenager, he was competing in triathlons and swimming competitions. Before his high-school graduation, the Junior National Cycling Team, part of the U.S. Cycling Federation, had already recruited him. Armstrong competed in Moscow at the Junior World Championships and in 1990 won the U.S. Amateur Championships. In 1992 he turned professional, when he joined the Motorola team, and one year later he became the second youngest champion in world road racing, ranking fifth in world standings. Armstrong won legs of the Tour de France in both 1993 and 1995 but withdrew from three of four Tours he attempted from 1993 to 1996.

      After the 1996 Tour de France, Armstrong fell ill, and in October doctors diagnosed him with testicular cancer, which had by that time also spread to his lungs and brain. He chose to take the risks of chemotherapy and surgery, as doctors felt these were his best chances for survival. Between chemotherapy sessions, Armstrong still took rides of 48 km (30 mi). By April 1997 the tumours had disappeared, and by October he was in the clear. In September 1997 an unranked Armstrong, riding with the French Cofidis team, finished a respectable fourth in the Tour de Spain. After his contract was terminated by Cofidis, he joined the U.S. Postal Service team in October and began preparing for the 1999 Tour de France.

      After his victory, Armstrong, who had established the Lance Armstrong Foundation to provide support for cancer patients and fund research for testicular cancer, made numerous appearances on television, where he gave some advice, “If you ever get a second chance in life, you've got to go all the way.” On October 12 medicine came through for Armstrong once again, when his wife gave birth to a son conceived by in-vitro fertilization from sperm frozen before the cyclist began his cancer treatments.

Amy Weber

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▪ American cyclist
born Sept. 18, 1971, Plano, Texas, U.S.
 
 American cyclist, who is the only rider to have won seven Tour de France titles (1999–2005).

      Armstrong entered sports at a young age, excelling in both swimming and cycling, and, by the time he was a teenager, he was competing in triathlons and swimming competitions. Before his high-school graduation the junior national team of the U.S. Cycling Federation had recruited him. Armstrong competed in Moscow at the Junior World Championships and in 1990 won the U.S. Amateur Championships. In 1992 he turned professional when he joined the Motorola team, and one year later he became the second youngest man to win in world road racing. Armstrong won stages of the Tour de France in both 1993 and 1995 but withdrew from three of four Tours he attempted from 1993 to 1996.

      After the 1996 Tour de France Armstrong fell ill, and in October his physicians diagnosed testicular cancer, which had by that time also spread to his lungs and brain. He underwent chemotherapy and surgery, which were considered his best chances for survival. Months of treatments followed before he could attempt his comeback in a sport so demanding that some doctors questioned whether he could bear the strains of a three-week race like the Tour de France. Armstrong seemed unsure himself, dropping out of his first long race, the 1998 Paris-Nice weeklong competition, on the second day and returning to the United States to rethink his dedication to the sport. A few months later he won his first important race since his cancer was diagnosed, the Tour of Luxembourg. Previously Armstrong had been a specialist in one-day races, but late in 1998, after a fourth-place finish in the three-week Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain), he was persuaded to change his training regime and compete in the next Tour de France.

 On July 25, 1999, Armstrong became the second American to win the Tour de France, the sport's most prestigious race, and the first to win for an American team (three-time winner Greg LeMond (LeMond, Greg) had raced with European teams). Riding with the U.S. Postal Service team, Armstrong won the 3,630-km (2,256-mile), 22-day race by 7 minutes and 37 seconds. During the Tour he fought allegations of doping because traces of a banned substance, corticosteroid, from a prescription skin cream he used for saddle sores, were found in his urine. The International Cycling Union (Union Cycliste Internationale) cleared him, but he continued to endure accusations of doping, especially from the French press. Thus Armstrong felt his July 23, 2000, win of the Tour de France to be a vindication of his 1999 win and an answer to his critics. He won the Tour again in 2001 and 2002, relying on his strength in the mountain climbs. In 2003 he overcame crashes and illness to claim his fifth consecutive Tour de France, tying a record set by Miguel Indurain. He surpassed Indurain in 2004 when he won his sixth consecutive race. After winning his seventh Tour in 2005, Armstrong retired from the sport, but in 2008 he announced that he was returning to competitive racing and planned to participate in the 2009 Tour de France.

      Apart from his racing career, Armstrong dedicated himself to campaigning for cancer awareness and established a foundation to further that goal. He published the memoirs It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life (2000) and Every Second Counts (2003), both coauthored by Sally Jenkins.

Samuel Abt Ed.
 

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Universalium. 2010.

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