Lance Armstrong didn’t win the Tour de France this year. He didn’t really even come close. But of the 180 best riders in the world, he was third best. Without a full year of training (he was injured in the spring) that’s pretty damned impressive for a 37 year old.
Over the years, he’s obviously served as an inspiration for millions of people in need of far greater resources than my life has required. As revered as Lance is in the cycling/sports world, it is nothing compared to the power of his story in the desperate world of cancer patients. For many, he is nothing short of one very significant reason to believe.
I certainly was a fan of what he did during his first six Tour de France victories but my understanding and appreciation of him reached another level when I worked on CBS’ coverage of his seventh. Up very close, I had the incredible opportunity to experience the race he dominated like no one before. And also witness the meaning he carried for so many that had never watched a bike race before their diagnosis.
Below is my first day, actually out on the Tour. I hung around outside of the Team Discovery bus and waited, like the growing crowd, for just a glimpse of the man that would wear yellow. When I did see him, I actually cried a little. Not really sure why, I just did. From the bus, I followed him over to the start line of the prologue Time Trial. You’ll see him briefly shake hands with Jan Ullrich, his longtime rival and then get up into the start house before riding off into history.
Two things I hope you’ll notice is 1) how incredibly close you can get to the riders in the Tour. There simply is no other sporting event that actually has you within an arm’s length of the competitors. 2) Jan Ullrich has a big bandage across his neck. The day before, on a training ride, he crashed through the rear window of a car at about 30mph. Everyone remembers that Lance actually passed Ullrich during this TT but how many remember Ullrich’s toughness to even show up after such a close brush with death? It speaks to the German’s fortitude, which I’d say, is fairly typical of cyclists. These guys are, hands down, the toughest athletes I’ve ever been around.
As thrilling as it was to be around Lance, I was also pretty excited to be working with Paul Liggett and Phil Sherwen. Two guys that are largely thought of as “The Voices of Cycling.” This next clip is from a video diary I kept during the Tour and recounts my first meeting with Sherwen and the wonderful impression that I made.
Hope you enjoy.