In 1999, I dressed up for the office Halloween party in a bright yellow Nike jersey, helmet, bike pants and nubby bike shoes. Only the guy from the mailroom recognized me as Lance Armstrong. Most people had no idea what the Tour De France was and my sign “Go Postal!!!!” made some folks nervous…. A young buck from Texas had just won his first Tour de France after surviving testicular cancer and people were just starting to talk about it.
My name is Deborah and I’m a Lance-a-holic. I loved the idea that the guy could beat the odds on so many fronts. For seven years, I watched and taped every day of the Tour de France so I could fawn over Lance. I scared the heck out of my cats yelling at the TV, encouraging Lance, George, the whole US Postal team. My husband bought Lance’s books for me and friends checked in to see how Lance was doing during the race if they didn’t have cable. July vacations were prefaced by assurances that I could get the Outdoor Life Network, the only channel that carried the European bike race that spawned a new interest in cycling and ultimately captured a huge American market.
Despite the latest revelations, I still have seven yellow armbands for every year he won. You have to admit it was a thrill-a-thon to watch Lance give Jan Ullrich ‘the stare’, then pull back the peloton when Jan accidently dove over a guard rail; to see Lance rebound after catching his handlebar on a musette; to dive off the road and cut across a meadow when Beloki wiped out in front of him; to hear Bob Roll intentionally mispronounce the Tour day France; to kick some French derrière at their own race. It is a shame that all of those feats are now followed by “but…” It is absolutely reprehensible that Lance and, as it turns out, many of the most competitive cyclists were doping but am I still a fan? Absolutely and it has nothing to do with the maillot jaune.
Lance won our hearts as the quintessential American: not just surviving cancer but flourishing in grand style. And as his fame and wealth grew, he could have laughed his way to the bank but instead he did what few could even imagine. Lance parlayed his wealth, notoriety and access to the famous and powerful to convince people – lots of people – to contribute to his brainchild, Livestrong Foundation, an organization that helped people think of a cancer diagnosis in a new way. Livestrong funds cancer research, raises awareness, provides support for people affected by cancer, deliver’s information through a first class website, books, forums and outreach. Lance inspired people to consider not merely surviving but thriving after cancer. We bought millions of yellow armbands, not just to fund Livestrong research, but to let others know we supported their struggle with cancer.
Lance turned Americans on to the Tour de France but he moved the world to think about defying a disease, not just being victim to it. Lance gave us gutsy hope, inspired us and channeled strength to millions facing the challenge of their lives. Turns out, it’s not about the bike. And you can’t take that away…. Livestrong.
• Craig encourages people to check out Livestrong.org