Rich’s Heroes

CNNSI.com – 2002 Sportsman of the Year – Lance Armstrong. I’m sure he is heroes to millions of people, so I’ll just have to add my name to the list. Just finished reading the Sports Illustrated article on him that went with the Sportsman of the Year award. Who could not admire his dedication. Get the December 16th issue of Sports Illustrated for the whole piece, but here are a few excerpts:

Armstrong is on his bike on a two-lane stretch…east of his hometown, Austin, Texas. But,then, Armstrong is always on his bike. It’s not about the bike? It’s all about the bike. Heck, just to tell him he’s this year’s Sportsman of the Year, we had to reach on his bike…

US: Hey Lance, congratulations, You’re the Sportsman of the Year.
HIM: Hold on. Gotta pass this semi. [Pause]
O.K., now, what?

This is his third hour on the bike today, and the Tour de France isn’t for seven months. This is not natural. No other racer in the world is doing this. The other day, in fact, Armstrong was riding along when the cellphone rang. It was the young British bike star David Millar, two-time Tour de France stage winner, calling from London, “drunk on his ass,” Armstrong reports.

ARMSTRONG: Hello?
MILLAR: Please tell me you’re not on your bike.
ARMSTRONG: I’m on my bike.
MILLAR: Noooo! You mohter! It’s December bloody first! How long have you been on it?
ARMSTRONG: Three and a half hours.
MILLAR: Noooooooooooo!

When Armstrong and his family move to their sceond home in Gerona, Spain, in mid-February, he’ll get serious. IOn fact, Armstron works so hard that he’s dangerous to everybody else. Tow years ago, U.S. Postal Service team director Johan Bruyneel let tow 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 Armstron train with the team only two days out of three.

Armstrong can ride a bike 32 miles per hour for an hour straight. The average fit college male can last at that pace about 45 sceond. “For the first 10 seconts they’re great,” says Coyle [University of Texas exercise physiologist]. ”
After about 20 second they think they’re gonna die. After 40 seconds they throw up.”

It’s not Armstrong’s body that wins tTours. It’s his will. Take, for instance, the sinister Alpe D’Huez, a 21-hairpin, 6060-foot hill that will ble the key climb in next year’s Tour. Armstrong knows the first name of every mountaing goat on it. He’s climbed it 10 times already and will do it twice more this spring before the Tour.