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Lance Armstrong – The Inspirational Cyclist

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Little did anyone know that on 18th September 1971, the world would be graced by an inspirational legend who would become an athletic wonder. Soon after Lance’s birth his parents split up and he was raised by his mother and step father. Lance developed a very close bond with his mother and they were the closest of friends. Despite financial woes, his mother bought him his first ever dirt bicycle on his birthday. Flying down the street on two wheels was where he felt most at home, and soon he began to discover his phenomenal athletic abilities.

 

The first competitive sport he found he was good at was running, when he was able to outrun the fastest runner in the athletics team in the 5th grade. When he turned 12, he began to learn how to swim. And by 13, he was the star runner and swimmer of school. It was only a matter of time before he found his panache for cycling and soon became a winner at local Triathlons.  Winning came easy to Lance, maybe that was why he was brash as a kid and bragged about his winnings. As a child, he was a little out of place and did not have many friends. Furthermore, his conflicting relationship with his step father seemed to fuel his competitive and sometimes aggressive nature.

 

Whatever the case, Lance Armstrong was a force to be recognized. It was only a matter of time before he went professional in his favorite sport, cycling. Doctors said that Lance had the best body suited for the punishing sport. He could take in oxygen and use it most efficiently to ride longer and harder and absorb a lot of pain. And that is exactly what he did. He would jump on a bicycle and ride as hard as he could. But during his earlier years as a professional racer, he remained a less than likeable personality. Arrogant and aggressive, there were many that criticized his attitude in the sport. But no one could deny his athleticism. However, it was Coach Chris Carmicheal who put a brain inside that body. Under his guidance, Lance competed in his first Olympics with great hopes, but he placed 14th overall. In his first race as a professional in Spain, he came in last. He was so far behind that they had already begun tearing down the staging by the time he reached the finish line. Undeterred by his initial shortcomings, he persevered into the US Pro Championship in June 1993. Fueled by the will to win, he pushed through the race and finished first, minutes before the racer behind him. Just after a year from coming in last, he won the US Pro Championship and he felt he was ready for the Tour de France, the most grueling of the cycling events. However, 12 days into the race Lance pulled out. He continued competing by entering in the Tour du Pont in which he won on his third attempt in 1995. He was also able to complete the Tour de France on his second attempt but his triumph was marred by the death of team mate Fabio Cassortelli. At the age of 25, Lance seemed invincible. With high hopes of placing higher this time, Lance Armstrong entered the Tour de France in 1996, but he had to drop out 5 days into the race as he had trouble breathing.

 

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On October 2, 1996, things started going drastically wrong. He was diagnosed with Advanced Testicular Cancer. He had ignored the symptoms for months assuming that pain comes with professional cycling, dismissing the soreness in his groin, headaches and difficulty breathing. His cancer then spread throughout his stomach, lungs and brain. If cancer is testicular cancer is discovered early, a man is usually given a 70% chance of survival. Because, Armstrong says he ignored warning signals, his chances of survival dropped as low as 40%.

 

But the Lance Armstrong story does not end here. Lance’s combination of physical conditioning, strong support system and competitive spirit took over. He declared himself a not a cancer victim but a cancer survivor. He educated himself about the disease and treatment options. Armed with this knowledge, he underwent aggressive treatment and surgery. In fact he did not stop cycling during his chemotherapy. That is until he collapsed from exhaustion while cycling. During his treatment Lance underwent two surgeries, one to remove the cancerous testicle and another to remove two cancerous lesions from his brain. Armstrong created the Lance Armstrong Foundation during his treatment.

 

Everyone needs an inspiration sometimes, especially those in the battle against cancer. Lance gave them hope. He remained strong and after his last chemotherapy session in December 13, 1996, he was declared cancer free. But, after the setback, no one took him into their professional cycling team. Finally in the fall of 1997, an American company sponsored by the US postal service took him on. On February 1998 he got back into racing in Spain and placed 15th. 3 weeks later, he entered a multi stage race in France but had to pull out in the middle. He was beginning to think about giving up, but his friends insisted he give it one last try. So, in April 1998, with the Chris Carmichael, the old competitive Lance was back to compete in California for Tour DuPont.

 

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Powering through, he entered the Tour De France for his third attempt in July 3rd 1999 to win the first stage. On the 9th day he pulled ahead and it looked like he was in for the win. The American Press were awestruck by this amazing fete, however the European Press seemed skeptical and accused Lance of using performance enhancing drugs. These accusations only fueled his urge to win and on July 25th, he clinched the victory. A victory not only for him but all cancer survivors and victims.

 

After his triumph, Armstrong’s salary and endorsements topped $7 million, and once again he seemed like an unstoppable force. But, in the spring of 2000 critics once again began to question his abilities. They believed that the 1999 TOUR DE FRANCE did not have the best racers competing in it and the victory for Lance was not something to brag about. Being the proud athlete Lance was, his retaliation to these criticisms came with a few more Tour De France victories, 6 more to be precise.

 

In 1997, Armstrong founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which supports people affected by cancer. The foundation has become one of the top 10 groups funding cancer research in the U.S., raising more than $325 million from the sale of yellow Livestrong bracelets. Lance is a phenomenal athlete who is a winner not at just racing but a winner in living. A 7 time Tour De France victor, his greatest victory has to be his triumph over cancer. An inspiration indeed!!

 

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