July 25, 2004



The Rev. Joe Kendall is a huge cycling enthusiast, so it's no surprise that he sent me this assessment of Lance Armstrong's huge achievement:

After a 45-mile ride in the morning and some house and lawn care in the afternoon, I tuned in the six o'clock news and saw Lance Armstrong pedaling into Paris. He was wearing his familiar yellow jersey, nine abreast with his U.S. Postal Service teammates who protected him in a 30-mph cacoon through many of the more than 2,000 miles during the Tour de France. It was a command performance by the 32-year-old Texan, who won a remarkable, record-setting sixth Tour in a row. Riding a bike is seen a leisurely activity in this country, but in Europe it inspires the passion we associate with football in the U.S.

That Armstrong whipped testicular cancer before he won Tour No. 1 made him more human to the folks here in the States. He was a cancer survivor -- and he world's fastest cyclist. In contrast to last year when Armstrong struggled to eke out a 61-second Tour win, this year he and his teammates nicknamed the "Blue Train" because of their blue royal-blue jerseys and shorts methodically dismantled the field. The teammates went postal in the mountains, allowing Armstrong to win the mountain stages. And if you're wondering if Armstrong was simply drafting on the wheels of cyclists who were doing all the heavy lifting, consider that Lance blew away the competition in a time trial that called for an agonizing 9.6-mile trek up a mountain. He was the only rider to finish that trial in less than 40 minutes and dropped the hammer on the field in the next-day mountain stage last week.

So, it was with these memories that I biked around Tampa in the pre-sunset twilight and gloaming, taking a rare moment now and then to propel speed by rocking the bike from side to side like Lance did when he saved precious seconds before his wheel hit the finish line in his stage victories. He counted six Tour wins in a row on his two hands for the cameras as he wheeled into Paris, looking like Michael Jordan when the hoopster counted his half-dozen NBA championships with the Bulls for the TV cameras.


Who knows whether Lance will go for No. 7 next year. Maybe not. But on Sunday, he validated his place among American sportsmen and soaked up the adulation of flag-waving U.S. fans in a place where America isn't exactly the most popular country. The Rev. Joe salutes Lance Armstrong on a job well done.

Posted by Jeff at July 25, 2004 11:22 PM