10 Questions For Lance Armstrong

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Since recovering from testicular, lung and brain cancer, Lance Armstrong has won the grueling Tour de France five times. In his latest book, Every Second Counts (Broadway; written with Sally Jenkins), he discusses his life on wheels. He recently talked with TIME's Bill Saporito, who is recovering from his own bout with cancer.

Later this month You're going to lead a cross-country bike tour with other cancer survivors. Won't you finish, oh, four days ahead of everybody else?

I'm going to ride with them at the start and finish, and join them at other times. It's more the idea to raise awareness — of clinical trials and the fact that cancer survivors can be healthy, normal people and ride their bikes across the country.


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Jan. 17, 2004
 

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Why do you have to essentially stage a publicity stunt to get attention for a disease that will kill more than half a million people this year?

The illness has gotten "old." My perception is that people have gotten used to the illness, of their grandfather dying of prostate cancer at 75, and saying, "Boy, he had a great life"—instead of saying Grandpa could have had another 20 good years.

In your book you say you have to suffer every day to be a champion. Isn't cancer suffering enough? I sure thought so.

I'm not happy if I'm not doing some physical suffering, like going out on a bike ride or running. First, it's good for you. No. 2, it sort of clears my mind on a daily basis. And it's a job. My job is to suffer. I make the suffering in training hard so that the races are not full of suffering.

You've recently added to your pain by announcing that you and your wife are divorcing. Is it possible to be a world-class cyclist and a husband?

Yes. But we weren't able to pull that off. Our lives were complicated because we crammed in a lot of things in five years. Any marriage counselor worth their salt would say you can only handle one or two major events.

For a miracle man, you're not very religious.

I don't have anything against organized religion per se. We all need something in our lives. I personally just have not accepted that belief. But I'm one of the few.

Then what do you need?

The illness gave me a purpose. My bike gives me a purpose; the bike will soon become a hobby and not a job. My illness and my children will be purposes and causes forever, and I need that.

Despite winning their most treasured sporting event five times, you've had a chilly relationship with the French. Now the whole country does. How did you get ahead of the game?

I now have a good relationship with them. This summer they were excellent to me. And if they had wanted to be rude or vindictive, they easily could have prevented me from riding a mile. Ironically, we enjoyed a better relationship this year than we've ever had. The people on the roadside were able to separate politics from sports.

Why doesn't Robin Williams stop following you? He's a great friend.

He's just hilarious, and he loves the bike. I have never seen him on the same bike twice, and I have been on 50 rides with him. He tells his wife, Hey, it could be Ferraris.

You almost bonked in the heat before you recovered to win the Tour this year. What's it going to take to win a sixth tour?

One thing's for sure, this year's performance won't work. I have to go back and be stronger. Perhaps the foundation of training for this year was not the best. It's like building a house: what goes down first is most important.

But you're already a training monster. Aren't your teammates going to dread working out with you?

They'll be fine. They're almost done with me.