Cyclist Lance Armstrong: A 'Dead Man' Winning

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Talk about bouncing back. On Sunday — three years after having been diagnosed with testicular cancer and subsequently undergoing four rounds of chemotherapy and two operations — 27-year-old Texan Lance Armstrong rode triumphantly into Paris to become only the second American to win international cycling’s biggest race: the Tour de France. "What a compliment to his courage and to his doctors!" says TIME science contributor Fred Golden. "This is one of the most strenuous activities around." Armstrong, who had a hard time convincing any sponsors except the fledgling U.S. Postal Service team that he had it in him, finished the race with a colossal 7-minute-and-37-second lead over his closest rival.

The victory can be expected to propel Armstrong’s name and the cause of cycling, both previously little followed in the United States, to new levels of recognition. Already a victory parade in his hometown of Austin awaits, as well as a high-profile round of television and commercial appearances. In fact, Nike ads have begun airing touting Armstrong as the "first dead man" to win the Tour de France, a slogan the cyclist reportedly loves. Most important, though, Armstrong has demonstrated to cancer patients around the world that the dreaded disease can be vanquished — and then some. "The message is that even a serious disease is not always totally devastating," says Golden. And that good medicine and staying fit can be an unbeatable combination.