Paris – Lance Armstrong became the second U.S. cyclist ever to win the Tour de France and wear the coveted yellow jersey to victory on the Champs Elysees.
The 2,287-mile Tour, with its mountainous terrain, is one the most grueling competitions in all of sports. Armstrong was not only riding with the first U.S. team ever to produce a winner in the 86 years of the tour’s running. He was also riding for the many cancer survivors who followed his comeback from a grueling disease.
Armstrong, an accomplished cyclist, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996, and the disease spread to his brain and lungs. He was told he had only a 50-60% chance of surviving.
But his family never doubted he would recover. He rode his bike 30 to 50 miles a day between draining rounds of chemotherapy. After two operations — one to remove a testicle and one for brain lesions — he began his comeback early last year.
“I’m in shock. I’m in shock. I’m in shock!” were Lance’s words at the finish.
He not only won the race. He dominated, finishing seven-and-a-half minutes ahead of his closest competitor. After waving to his mother from the winners podium and embracing his wife, he found the words to inspire others.
“If there’s one thing I say to those who use me as their example, it’s that if you ever get a second chance in life, you’ve got to go all the way. It was a long road to get to the Tour and a long road to get through it.”
The Associated Press reported that his doctor said it was not due to medical care that he experienced such a remarkable recovery: “To come back as a professional athlete, and to be in his form — that is a result of Lance’s spirit and dedication.”