Looking for Lance

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Well, he's done it. With a gleam in his eye and a champagne flute in his hand, Lance Armstrong pedaled to his second consecutive victory in the Tour de France Sunday, coasting down the Champs- Elysées like he hadn't just completed the most grueling sporting event on earth. It was an utterly satisfying win for Armstrong's legion fans, many of whom have spent much of the last three weeks despondently riffling through newspapers trying to eke out news of their hero.

We had our work cut out for us. Even on the day of Armstrong's victory, the major American networks couldn't be bothered with Tour coverage; ABC followed Tiger Woods' admittedly rollicking win at the British Open with auto racing while NBC and FOX fiddled around with various ball-related games. CBS was locked out of British Open coverage but found a way to bore us anyway with "The Story of Golf" (a repeat, I might add), which ran from 2:30 to 5 in the afternoon. Prime Sunday advertising territory — lost to a rerun.

ESPN didn't do any better; finally, at 7 in the evening I had to resort to ESPN2 for my Tour coverage (taped, of course, so as not to interfere with the very important synchronized swimming event scheduled earlier in the day). I found the network's recap stirring, if occasionally maudlin, and sniffled a few times as I watched Lance's hapless challengers fall to the wayside as the man of the hour pushed past them as if they were standing still.

If only the rest of America knew what they were missing: Lance, the once brash young fellow who survived advanced testicular cancer and went on to win two Tours with absolute grace and stunning determination. A genuine, soft-spoken guy who's not only unafraid of being a role model to young cyclists, but who has also embraced his stature as a hero in the cancer community. This is the kind of man we want kids to look up to: Someone who has found peace with himself, who invites his competitors to ride his back wheel up the worst of the mountain stages, and who gets himself through his toughest rides by thinking about his infant son, waiting for his dad at the finish line.