With his recent unprecedented seventh victory in the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong is perhaps the greatest cyclist ever.
Born Lance Edward Gunderson on September 18, 1971, in Plano Texas, to Linda Gayle Mooneyham and Eddie Charles Gunderson. Eddie disappeared when Lance was two, and Linda remarried Terry Keith Armstrong, whose last name Lance took. Lance did not get along well with his stepfather, having not seem him in several years, and has also expressed no desire to meet his biological father.
Lance was highly athletic from a very early age, as he began seriously running and swimming at age ten. By thirteen, he had begun competing in adult amateur triathlons. He became a professional thriathlete at sixteen, winning the national sprint-course triathlon championship the next year, and becoming the number one ranked triathlete in the nineteen and under age group.
Lance soon chose to focus on his favorite, and best, event, cycling, and in 1990 he became the U.S. national amateur champion. The next year, he qualified for the U.S. Olympic cycling team, and finished fourteenth overall at the 1992 Summer Olympiad in Barcelona.
The next year, Lance turned professional, joining team Motorola and finishing the year ranked first in the world. His accomplishments that year included winning the eighth stage of his first Tour de France, becoming the youngest man to win the World Road Race Championship, and the first man to win the “Triple Crown;” the Thrift Drug Classic, the Kmart West Virginia Classic, and the CoreStates USPRO National Championship. His first Tour de France was disappointing, however; despite his eighth leg, victory, he soon fell behind, and eventually pulled out of the race.
Cancer and Recovery
In 1995, Lance won his first Tour de Pont victory, a race he had previously competed in twice. 1996 started as another successful year for him, in which he repeated his victory at the Tour de Pont, this time setting several race records, and once again qualified for the U.S. Olympic team, despite recovering from bronchitis.
On October 2, 1996, however, Armstrong was diagnosed with stage three nonseminomatous testicular cancer, which, due to its’ late diagnosis had already spread to his abdomen, lungs, lymph nodes, and later, even his brain. In hopes of saving his career, Lance opted for a more dangerous chemotherapy treatment, and underwent surgery to remove one of his testicles and the tumors on his brain. He was given about a %50 chance to survive. His doctor later told him, however, that the actual odds were closer to %3, and that Lance had been given the higher odds to help him keep his spirits up. In February 1997, he was declared cancer free, and established the Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer patients. in 1998 he returned to take fourth place at the World Road Race Championship. The same year, he married Kristin Richard, whom he had met through his foundation.
Tour de France Victories and Divorce
Competing in the Tour de France for the first time in several years, Armstrong claimed his first victory in the race, winning four of the twenty-one stages. He repeated in 2000, this time defeating two of his major rivals who had been absent from the last race, Jan Ullrich and Marco Pantani, with Ullrich taking second place. In this year he also suffered system shock from a car accident, but recovered in time for the 2000 Olympics, in Sydney in which he earned a bronze medal.
In 2001 and 2002, Ullrich again took second place to Armstrong in the Tour de France. He won again in 2003, but in that year filled for divorce with Kristin Armstrong, with her citing the difficulties of caring for his cancer and the extensive traveling. Lance continued his winning streak, however, claiming victories in 2004 and 2005, bringing his total to seven before finally retiring. He currently hold the record for most victories by any individual.
Armstrong is currently devoting his time to his charity foundation, while still competing in various cycling and running events. From 2003 to 2006 he dated singer and songwriter Sheryl Crow. Lance currently resides in a home in Austin, Texas, where he also owns a ranch.
Born: September 18, 1971
Famous For: Renowned cyclist and athlete, founder of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
Key Accomplishments: Record-holding seven-time Tour de France winner, cancer survivor.
Significant Quote: “Being a champion is redefining what’s humanly possible.”
Fun Quote: “You know when I need to die? When I’m done living. When I can’t walk, can’t eat, can’t see, when I’m a crotchety old bastard, mad at the world. Then I can die.”