A Hero’s Last Ride

The 2nd article I ever wrote for Sportscolumn.com…eventually got published in a college English textbook. My writing has definitely changed since then, but it’s still a memorable accomplishment for me! Written after Armstrong’s 7th straight Tour de France victory.

“Ultimate Sports Hero Mix”-Mixing Instructions

Step 1: Fill pot with dedication and hard work and turn up the desire until it is boiling.

Step 2: Stir in the obstacles (the package containing France, cancer, and critics)

Step 3: Now add the entire box of pressure and expectation, and supervise for 7 years as it dissolves.

Step 4: Add as much courage as you can find to the pot, stir for 10 minutes, and then top it off by adding a touch of champagne and a yellow jersey to the mix and letting it sit in its glory for the rest of its life.

So what do you get with this strange concoction? If you follow these directions, you receive the best, most inspirational athlete of this era. He overcame enormous odds to return to his sport, he cleared so many hurdles on his way back. He had to swim the English Channel while his opponents took a lap in a pool. He had to climb Mt. Everest; they took a stroll in the foothills. Lance Armstrong is not only riding away from his sport on top, but he is leaving as the best there ever was.

Everyone knows his story, what he accomplished, how he did it. Lance Armstrong is a household name, and not just because of his yellow bracelets. So, when he announced that 2005 would be his last Tour de France, was there really any doubt that he would capture that unprecedented seventh straight title?

He had already defeated so many demons on the way there, what was going to stop him from winning again? Absolutely nothing. If the critics couldn’t get to him, if he didn’t crack under the pressure and expectations of an entire nation, why would a silly little race beat him? Cancer? He took it down. The almighty French? No problem. There is nothing he couldn’t do and he left the same way he came in, by winning the Tour de France yet again.

How do the other riders compete with someone that has made it through so much? They all know about the tragic event that could have taken his life, and derailed his career for 2 years. He was ranked as the number 1 cyclist in the world going into 1996, when something his doctor told him put a quick stop to his certain stardom. He was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. He had less than a 50 percent chance of recovering. But, always determined, Lance began on a rigorous chemotherapy schedule and amazed everyone in 1999 when he was able to get back on his bike and ride in the Tour de France.

Though he was scarred from his fight with cancer, just lining up at the start of the race was a victory in itself for Lance. When he actually came out and beat all the other world-class cyclists in that Tour, who could have known it would be the start to the most famous and inspirational record-setting career in cycling history? Not only did that first win shock the world, but opened the eyes of American citizens to the man representing their country on foreign soil, and winning the most demanding physical event in sports.

Lance went on to win again in 2000 and 2001. Then he won…again…and again…and again. By 2004 he had won six consecutive Tour de France races, breaking a record and infuriating the French. Why was this American so dominant in their race? There were talks of steroids involved, illegal substances, cheating on Armstrong’s part. But he had done it all legitimately, and nothing could change that. He had no fear, knowing that he had already stared death in the face and survived. No rider could compete with someone with so much motivation.

Coming into 2005, the Tour de France committee even attempted to “Lance proof” the course, to give other riders a chance at winning. Nothing they did would work and the Tour de Lance continued, when Armstrong’s Discovery Team rode into Paris at the end of the last stage, with Armstrong maintaining his four minute and forty second lead over the second place finisher. It had gotten to a point where if someone asked you who you thought would win the Tour de France, it was a natural response, a no-brainer to say: “Lance! Duh!” Lance Armstrong has provided us with seven years of excitement, and now he is leaving just the way he should: with that one last title.

He has done so much for the sport, gotten it recognition everywhere, and he is an amazing, inspiring role model to athletes everywhere. Even with his departure, cycling will become more and more popular because of the presence he had. He is a walking example of the phrase ‘nothing is impossible’.

As Lance rides off into the sunset, toward the rest of his life, let us wish him luck in whatever comes his way. Thank you Lance Armstrong, for all you’ve done for athletes everywhere and how much hope you’ve given to anyone that didn’t believe they could succeed. Your legacy will live on forever in the minds and memories of everyone who knows your name. Now go enjoy the rest of your life. You deserve nothing less.

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One thought on “A Hero’s Last Ride

  1. Pingback: Lance Armstrong: Innocent and Inspiring as Ever « Jam Shots

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