Tag Archives: Lance Armstrong

Lance and me

My first run in with anything Lance was when I was growing up hanging around my dad’s hardware store. Farmers and construction workers would come in to grab a “pepsi-and-a-nab.” The nab in this case would Lance crackers — you could get cheese or peanut butter.

I knew a Lance in college. Actually, one was a professor and then his son. Another Lance I knew in college was Lance Crowe who is now the Chief of Police in Travelers Rest. Good Lances all.

Then there is Lance Armstrong. While aware of him in the early part of the 2000’s, I didn’t really start paying attention to him until 2006 when I first began to get interested in road riding — and my interest in racing was piqued. He was simply an American rider who was taking it to the Euros on their own turf.

Being a new fan and cyclist, it took a little bit to get initiated into the “other side” of cycling. However, even before that point, I had already formed an impression of the Postal rider. Simply put, I thought of him as a great rider, but not someone with whom I would want to hang out.

Then the two aspects of my interest in cycling collided. There were my racer buddies whose — not all, but many — views of Armstrong varied from ambivalence to disdain. Then there were “cancer activist” friends with whom I participated in charity rides whose — not all, but many — views of the polarizing rider ranged from accepting to worshipful.

I only met Lance once. When I did I was on a bike. It was back in 2008. I was riding in a LiveStrong charity ride in Austin.

Then we hit a wide smooth road.  We had just climbed and things were leveling off and the moderately rolling.  I found myself off the front in another breakaway.  However, it wasn’t just any breakaway… I was in a five man pace line with Lance Armstrong!  We were rolling at over 30 mph.  The line kept rotating and at one point as I came around I could feel that Lance was looking over to see who his interloper was hanging with his boys.

Then I had my only conversation with Armstrong

My next encounter with Lance came after a climb.  Everyone was riding in a double pace-line.  The way this works is two riders ride up front and when they are done leading the group, they split and the next two riders move up to the front to lead for a while.  As we reached the top of a climb and we came to a turn, the lines shuffled and I led the group into the turn by myself.

As soon as we turned, I could see a long hill ahead — probably 200 yards or more.  Then I sensed someone rolling up to my left.  It was Lance.  We started to pull the group together.

I looked over and said, “Hello from Greenville, SC.”  He smiled and said, “Oh, you rode here with that group?  George told me about you guys.”  We talked a little more about the Challenge to Conquer Cancer Ride and then he said, “I’ll have to e-mail George and tell him I rode with you.”  At that point, we were about 50 yards from the top of the climb.  I said, “I’m going to pull off up at the top.  Being up here is a little out of my league.”  Lance replied, “Hey, you’re working harder than me.  Just ease up and take it easy.  There are a lot of hills up on this next section.”  “Thanks for the warning,” I said, “I think I’ll just fade back and rest up for them.”

Okay, I will admit that at that time I was pretty star-struck. The encounter didn’t change my views of the man’s personality, but how often do you find yourself in that position with any rider of international stature — a stature that up to that point was unsullied.

Today? Well, today I would say that my attitude is that I am tired of Lance. Sure, I realize that there are those who have been greatly hurt by the man and I don’t blame them at all for having some very strong feelings. I just don’t.

I have no feelings of ill toward the man. Perhaps it was because he was never that high in my estimation. He hasn’t hurt me because I have not invested anything in him.

As for Lance, I just wish he would go away. However, what I would like to go away more is the actions he participated in. Until those things are changed in the peloton, I am afraid Lance will always be with me.

Lance Armstrong convinced me to shave

When they put that collar around my neck back in May, I stopped shaving. First it was because it hurt to even press a razor against my face. Then it became a matter of just not being interested in grooming. Finally I started trimming it and decided I would leave it until I got the neck brace off. That, I thought, would happen this past Tuesday. It didn’t, but I shaved anyway.

I have always been interested in following Lance Armstrong. I can’t say that I am a complete fan. There are certainly parts of his life and personality that I personally do not wish to emulate. However, one thing I certainly admire about him is his tenacity.

Tuesday I took a moment to switch on Versus and they were running Lance Armstrong All the Time. I’ve seen it before, so I was only partially following what was happening on the screen. However, an image caught my eye and arrested my attention. It also changed my outlook.

You’ve seen the video. It is a picture of Lance Armstrong with a bald pate due to brain surgery and cancer treatment. Yet, there he was on the trainer spinning away. In a challenge far exceeding my own, he was getting back up and getting on with life — not only seeking to exist, but to excel.

I shaved.

I was feeling pretty down that I was going to have to go another month with this neck brace. It was disheartening to learn that my recovery was going to take longer than I hoped. It was frustrating to see all my plans turned upside down.

“Well, I guess I’ll keep my beard a little longer,” I thought to myself. It had become a symbol of my submission to the challenge I was facing. I was allowing this collar that was constricting my neck to constrain my heart.

I shaved.

Sure, shaving didn’t change anything. However, changing my outlook did. Getting rid of the hair on my face was a symbol of that internal change. Now, every morning when I shave my face I will look in the mirror and remind myself that I don’t have to be limited in my spirit by the circumstances I’m in.

I’ll shave and in the back of my mind will the be image on a gaunt young man with a “C” scar on top of his head. He’ll be spinning on his trainer with a look of determination in his eyes. He’ll also go on to win 7 Tours de France.

Floyd Landis: Pro and Con

The news wasn’t surprising. The story in the Wall Street Journal spread like wildfire through the twitterverse. Also unsurprising was incendiary fuel of some big names to help fuel the flame. Floyd Landis is back in the news and this pro — and con — gives us reason again to take a look at the state of doping in our sport.

Con

The issue with the revelations by Landis is that he is a con. He has lied before. What makes us think he won’t lie again? The “con” is that he is a con.

What if every allegation that he is making is true? Wow, that would turn the cycling world upside down. Then again… would it? Just because it might be true doesn’t mean it can be proven. Unless physical proof can be presented it is the word of a known liar – Landis – against Lance Armstrong and a host of other long-time professional athletes.

Hmmmm, wonder who will win that battle? Had Landis come forward back before he was caught and made these allegations, perhaps his revelations would carry more punch. As it is, he comes across as a sinking ship that is trying to throw anchor onto all the vessels around him for the sake of causing them to go down with him.

This whole business is a “con” for our sport. The loudest messengers calling for the sport to be cleaned up always seem to be the ones caught in the act. Don’t get me wrong… there are other voices, they just don’t end up in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Pro

All that said, it does keep the pressure on the dopers. There really isn’t anything we can do about 2002 – 2006. The focus needs to be on now and curtailing the doping that still continues in the ranks of professional cycling. If these emails by Landis help to keep the focus on finding those cheaters and putting a stop to their actions, then that is a painful but positive result.

Another positive is that at least now we can move on from Landis himself. I’ll admit, I had sympathy for the guy and deep inside I hoped that it was true that he didn’t dope — though reason told me otherwise. Yes, perhaps his allegations will open a whole new book of stories, but as for Landis himself, I’ve closed the book on him.

Why

It leaves us to ask the question “Why?” Why did Landis come clean about his own use of performance enhancing drugs and methods? Why now? Are those questions even important?

The deeper question is “Why do these athletes do this?” The obvious answer is that they are seeking that competitive edge that will give them what they seek most – a place. I don’t think that it is so much that they do so to win. Many of the dopers never do. They are simply trying to stay in the game.

I can see how easy it could be. They are very disciplined and control so many aspects of their lives to make a go of it. The one thing they cannot control is the competition. When you are doing all you can to perform at your best and you are still struggling… the temptation is to look for that one extra boost.

Dopers are like politicians (my apologies to the dopers).  So often before they are elected politicians will arrive in government with lofty ideals. Before long they are sucked into the feeding frenzy and belly up at the trough. Their only goal becomes getting reelected.

How

How do we put an end to this? Well, as much as we hate it, there must be testing. However, that won’t end it. The end of doping will have to take place within the peloton. The code needs to be turned on its head. Some other pro rather than a known con must take the first step to helping the peloton police itself.

I didn’t ride with Lance

Last week my teammates and I did a lot of riding:  100 plus miles on the beautiful Natchez Trace – in the dark, 80+ wonderful miles through the walking horse country of Tennessee, dozens of miles here and there, and – not to be overlooked – 85 miles that included 2.5 hours through tropical storm Rick.  However, the miles I was looking forward to all week were those in Austin when I would once again try to catch Lance Armstrong during the LiveSTRONG Challenge.

I did it last year. A few of us riders took off from the start and caught Armstrong about 15 minutes into the ride. It was a once and a life time experience – at least I know that now!

This year I took off once again to relive the excitement of the past. Fifteen minutes into the ride there was no Lance and my teammates who started with me were no longer around me.  One succumbed to cramps and another to a mechanical. I wasn’t sure of the status of the third.  All I knew is that I was hurting and trying to stay with about 6 other riders who were putting the hammer down.

My mind went back to last year when I was on the super team of the Palmetto Peloton Project. We had a strong collection of riders and I came to Austin much fresher that year. It was a different experience entirely. That year we gloried in our strength – and I loved it. It culminated with enough reserves in the tank to ride with Lance.

Here I was again in 2009 trying to bring back some of that magic. I kept hanging on to the chase group knowing that if I could stay there then the crud would pass and catching Lance would still be a possibility. I was right.  Twenty miles into the ride I was starting to feel better.  I took my turns on the front and then slid back to recover.

Nearing mile 24, I was on the front.  We were going through a small town when we came to an intersection with some policemen directing traffic.  It wasn’t clear what we were supposed to do.  I motioned to the guardians to give me a signal of how to continue you.  They waved us directly ahead.

We then approached another one.  There was on policeman on duty here and I motioned to him for a sign as well.  He made a small motion with his hand and in a split second I realized I misread his signal.  He told us to go right.  I continued straight.

Unfortunately for me, all the other riders were paying better attention to the road markers.  They whizzed through the turn and took off.  The one guy who went straight with me got turned around faster and took off after them.  By the time I got back to the turn, the group was out of sight.

I chased to get back on.  However, I knew at that point it was fruitless. To be honest, I knew it was going to be tough the day before when I went for an easy spin around the city of Austin. A couple of times I gave my legs a test, but the screamed back at me and simply did not offer me any power.

My team this year was much different. Most of them had taken up cycling just recently. I was not on the “super-team” this year. My miles from Greenville to Austin included a fair amount of pulling my teammates through headwinds. There simply was not enough fuel left in the tank. Had I been able to catch Lance, I probably wouldn’t have been able to stay with him because I would have shot my wad to get there.

Now, does that mean that this wasn’t as good of a week? No – not by any means. It was simply different. This year’s team gloried in each new accomplishment – and we loved it. This year it wasn’t about me going fast with a bunch of racers. It was about watching relatively new cyclists grow by going farther than they thought they could. It was with pleasure and a sense of ownership that I pulled them (not to say they didn’t work hard!)

All alone somewhere in cattle country of Dripping Springs, Texas I had opportunity to think through these things. Finally, some other riders came along and swallowed me up. I gladly jumped into their pace line and began to think that while I might not catch Lance, at least I could get a good finish.

Will Flanagan was in the group and we stuck together for many miles. I owe him big time. Here I was the “racer” the “Lance chaser” and I was trash. Will had to pull me along. He didn’t complain when I began to ask to stop at the various SAG stops along the way.

Then with around ten miles to go I came upon Sally Dunn.  I knew it was her because she had her pink cape on.  As we approached her we called out her name.  “Oh, hi, Jonathan! Your wife is just ahead!”

One thing I didn’t mention is that my beautiful redhead decided on Friday to do the 45 mile ride of the LiveSTRONG Challenge! She had never ridden over 20 miles in her life and here she was biting off quite a piece of cycling! I was a little concerned knowing the rolling nature and rough roads of the Dripping Springs area.

I caught her and we began to ride together. She was doing her best, but after the 20 mile mark she was starting to have some pain in her knees.  She was really suffering up the hills. It caused me to slow down to nearly a coast.

Rider after rider passed me.  Racer types, overweight types, older riders, and kids finishing their shorter distances.  I recognized some of them from pace lines I had left behind earlier in the day. My competitive nature cringed as I watched them leave me in the dust.

I urged Annette on and we continued together. Rather than being frustrated about being passed, I put my focus on the fact that she was doing this for me. She isn’t a cyclist. She doesn’t want to be one. However, she wanted to experience this with me.

We rolled into the finishing shoot together.  She was hurting so badly that she couldn’t put much pressure on the pedals. I looked back and she gave me a smile through a painful grimace. I finished my 90 and she her 45 together.

No, I didn’t ride with Lance. I rode with Annette — and I grew to love every minute of it.

For memories sake, I am also including last year’s video.

Thank you, RadioShack

If you haven’t heard, Lance Armstrong is starting a new team in 2010.  There was much speculation before the formal announcement as to whom the sponsor would be. Some sounded pretty exciting, but when the word finally slipped out there were laughs and derision.

Oracle, Starbucks, Google, Apple — and many more corporations were mentioned as possible sponsors.  Many of the fans participating in conjecture concerning the sponsor were anticipating some “sexy” sponsor that they felt lived up to the Armstrong brand.  There was no lack of shock when the sponsorship was made official.

Team RadioShack.  Yep, the primary sponsor for Lance Armstrong’s 2010 team is RadioShack.  I will admit that I was surprised.  You certainly don’t think of the electronics retail store as being a Pro Tour team sponsor.

I was also surprised at the negative reaction from many fans.  I would go so far to say that in the Internet forums and Twitter feeds I saw it was most fans who were making fun of the choice.  Why?  Should we not be thankful?

Yes, it is true that RadioShack does not have an iconic brand as, say, Starbucks or Apple.  However, it has been around for many years and many people remember with fondness their Tandy computers.  They also have a presence in many countries.  You also have to consider that it could never be Circuit City – RadioShack definitely has an advantage over that former electronics big box store.

Now, I’m not saying this because I am going to be a big Team RadioShack fan.  I don’t even know who is going to be on the team and the fact that Lance Armstrong is on it is not enough to win me over.  If it is stacked with Americans, I might be won over.  If Hincapie should go (which I’m led understand is NOT going to happen), I would find it hard not to follow.

For now, Columbia-HTC is my team.  Should they lose George, then it would lose much of its American touch.  At that point, I would need to reassess my loyalties.  I just can’t help but think that Columbia-HTC is going to see some shakeups over the next several months.

Back to Team RadioShack… Regardless of what I think about the retail store that is RadioShack, I express a big thank you to the corporation for choosing to invest in an American Pro Tour team.  It already seems to have been a positive move for them.  Their stock value has increased and they followed it up with another positive announcement of an agreement with T-Mobile to provide their services.

Thank you, RadioShack… and welcome to the peloton Team RadioShack.  Now, we just want to know who will be on the team.  My guess we’ll start learning more as soon as the Tour finishes in Paris.

Aussies and dizzies

George Hincapie news from Twitterville…

Lance Armstrong first comments, “At dinner with George Hincapie in Adelaide. Catching up! Love this guy like a brother.”  George comes back with, “Dragged Lance Armstrong out to a bar. He’s not happy. I love it. He’s getting mobbed.”

Earlier in the day (Australia time) we have this report from the official Tour Down Under Twitter account, “Huge day today! Had a Columbia Press Call this morning with George Hincapie being the favourite.”  Of course, there is a ton of press on the scene because it is Lance Armstrong’s first race in his come back.  The question Hincapie gets the most?  “What will it be like to race against Lance Armstrong?”

The Tour Down Under starts January 18th.  Versus will have a 30 minute recap of each day’s stage at 4 PM.  The final stage will be shown in its entirety on January 24th at 10 PM.  You can see the full schedule here.

I’m still fighting something.  It would appear that the cold I had/have has settled in my inner ear.  I get quite dizzy at times and have to sit down.  This is very discouraging.  I have not been on the bike for nearly a week.  I’ve got to get on today and at least spin my legs a bit.

Rise of the Sialia sialis

There’s a new bird in town. Perhaps you’ve seen the little blue bird on some of the websites you frequent. Facebook, say hello to Twitter.

Twitter is the new Blogger in a sound byte world. Back in my days in media relations I knew that if my message couldn’t be communicated in 15 seconds you might as well keep your mouth shut. Okay, I’m exaggerating about the 15 seconds. Now you only get 140 characters.

Like most new social media applications I approached this new one with a little skepticism. I kind of got it because it was very similar to the Facebook status updates. As a matter of fact, that is what first got me using Twitter. It allowed me to update my Facebook status using texting from my cell phone.

As an avid cyclist, I started looking around on Twitter to see if I could find some of the professional riders. The first I came upon was Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) and then Dave Zabristkie (@dzabriskie).  It wasn’t long before George Hincapie was on board as well (@ghincapie).

One thing is for certain, when Lance Armstrong gets into something, he gets in with both feet!  As of the time of this writing, he is up to 24,488 followers of his tweets.  Of course, that is just a drop in the bucket to accounts like the Obama campaign with over 165,000 followers.

You know that Twitter is starting to have an impact when it starts shaping the mainstream.  Take for instance a recent event with Lance Armstrong.  It would appear that Lance was trying to make an under cover entrance into the land down under for the Australia’s Tour Down Under.  His cover got blown… not by giving information, but from the lack of it.

Armstrong is such a prodigious Twitter user that people noticed when his tweets went silent.  Before you knew it, the word was that he on his way to Australia.  As Lance says in his first tweet on location, “So much for sneaking into Australia…my old journo buddy Rupert Guiness says since I didn’t twitter for 10 hours, it tipped them off. Haha.”

Yes, Twitter is the new Blogger in a sound byte world.  It is easy to use which makes it seem less cumbersome to people busy and on the go.  It is also easy to deal with on the follower’s side because the information comes in very short bursts so it is easy to digest.

The service is also a great way to build your brand.  If what you tweet is useful and interesting, you can gain a following that can lead to more traffic to your “traditional” means of communicating on the web.  Here at LowCadence.com, tweets of my own and others that link to my articles generate more traffic than any other source.  Once, when George Hincapie, linked to my site in a tweet, I had my largest spike ever.  I still get some traffic from that entry several weeks old.

Some companies are even using it as a means to provide better customer support.  I mentioned in an earlier blog about Twenty20’s VHoldR.  I mentioned a problem I was having with their camera in a tweet — remember under 140 characters — and they found it by a word search.  They made contact with me and that proactive action helped build a more loyal customer.

Some things I have learned?  Don’t over do it. I still believe there is such a thing as “share fatigue.”  It happens for both the “follower” and the “followed”.  For some people, it is possible to share so much of yourself that you reach a point where you want to escape!

However. more likely, it is possible to share so much that people tune you out.  Thirty fifteen second sound bytes in a row equals seven minutes plus.  Unless I am REALLY interested in what someone has to say, I skim right over some tweets simply because of the number of them.

Use your links judiciously. Another tweet I will overlook is the one that doesn’t give much information in the tweet but simply links to a URL.  Granted, you may have found this article because you clicked on the link that my software automatically sends out when I post.  However, I make it a point to use that sparingly.

Again, you want to avoid the Boy Who Cried Wolf syndrome.  A few judicious posts opens the door for your links.  Of course, it never hurts to make sure you are linking to information people really want to see!  We all know that person who forwards every “funny” email that comes into his or her box.

Twitter isn’t a gimmick.  In this relationship driven culture that we live in, it is a growing phenomenon.  Who knows what the next thing will be.  For now, the blue bird seems to be on the rise.  Join in the fun and be sure you give @jpait a follow :-).

Backs and blogs

Last night was another trainer night. I was a little bit motivated after reading the latest e-mail from TrainRight where Chris Carmichael talks about Lance Armstrong being ahead of schedule with his training for the upcoming season. Yeah, like jaw dropping ready!

Actually, it is just the difference between an elite international pro rider and a category 4 club rider. Here is a typical training day for the Astana rider:

Day 3: 4 hours at endurance pace staying below 315watts, include 1hr at Tempo power, 350-380watts, low pedal cadence during Tempo (60-70rpm).

One hour at 350 to 380 watts… that ain’t happening with my body! However, I’m not riding in the Tour de France either. So, I take the encouragement out of the fact that with proper training, Armstrong (according to Carmichael) has been able to improve his overall fitness by 25 watts since an earlier test last year. It is all relative.

So, on the trainer I climbed. The plan was to ride easy for 10 to 15 minutes and then give it a sustained 20 minute push trying to stay over 250 watts. Then I would just spin out the rest of the hour. After a short break I would come back to spin for 5 minutes intervals and then do an all out sprint for 20 seconds. 30 minutes later, I would call it a night.

Well, I didn’t quite make the steady 250 watts though I was able to average close to it. On the sprints in the final session I was pleased to see I was able to get close to 1000 watts on the first several tries. Then my legs started going on me and I was just topping 800.

I think I could have gotten more except my trainer wanted to start taking off! One thing about sprinting on a trainer is that you don’t have much lateral motion with the bike. It remains pretty stiff and upright. This morning I’m feeling it! My lower back is pretty sore.

Well, that is where the “back” comes from. What about the “blogs?” Well, if you haven’t heard anywhere else, there are now some blogs available over at Hincapie.com. I enjoy every chance to read what other cyclists are doing. There you’ll find a link to George’s blog over at GeorgeHincapie.com. There are also blogs from some of the staff and riders at Hincapie Sports.

I was especially attracted to the Training blog. Here’s to hoping that they will keep things going. I’ve seen a lot of blogs start up and then fade away. Some have only gotten one entry up (are you reading this, Alder?) and I would really enjoy reading more.

Thanks, Kirk, for getting things up and going over there. Good luck on your own blog. I too have learned the saddle bag lesson!

Mellow Johnny’s

More video from the Palmetto Peloton Project’s Challenge to Conquer Cancer ride. A quick video tour of Lance Armstrong’s Austin bicycle shop, “Mellow Johnny’s”. A cool shop with some pretty good coffee.

I wondered what type of service I’d find there. Was this just a “tourist trap” for catching Lance fans? Well, they were very helpful. I needed a new mount for my Garmin 705 and while they didn’t have one in stock, they looked to find a solution. Ultimately, they cannibalized a full unit to help me get what I needed.

It is a honest to goodness LBS.

My ride with Lance

Wow, what a ride!  This morning I rolled out of bed at 4:30 to get ready for the LiveStrong Challenge 90 mile ride.  We had to make sure we had everything packed up and loaded on the Hincapie bus so the bus could leave directly from the ride location.  All we need to have is the one carry-on bag to take on the plane.

It took me a little figuring to decide how to do that.  I think I have it down so that I won’t have any fluids.  The LiveStrong messenger bag we got at registration should be able to hold everything.  All my other luggage went on the bus that is heading toward Greenville even as I type this.  Joe and Joey Sullivan are going to drive pretty much straight through.

We tried to get everyone away at 5:15.  A couple of riders were a little late getting out to our van so the bus left without us.  Matt headed off down the road to find them.  Unfortunately, it turned out we were going the wrong way.  Matt did a sliding u-turn to get us back on the chase.  Okay, so it was a three point turn, but it felt like a donut!

We caught them on 290 and settled in behind the bus.  Good!  We wouldn’t be late.  It did take a while to get out to Dripping Springs, TX where the ride would be held.  As we pulled up, it was like arriving at the fair.  People were waving flags everywhere trying to direct the traffic.

The bus was at a disadvantage because it is larger and pulls a trailer.  It couldn’t be parked just anywhere.  The flag folks directed him to head toward the place where buses would park.  Matt was determined to stay right with him.

“You have to turn here,” the guy with the flag said.

“We’re with them,” Matt responded.

“But you have to park here,” the guy said almost with tears in his voice.

“Okay,” said Matt as he put the van in gear and continued to follow the bus.

That allowed us to park right up by the bus, which was nice.  That is where our bikes and other stuff was.  It would not have been good to have had to walk several miles from that parking lot to the bus!

After getting unloaded and set up, I headed up to the start.  There were thousands of cyclists out there!  I believe the total number was over 3200 of them.

I kept working my way up through the 90 mile group so that I could get up close to the front.  I didn’t want to have to work through all of those people in front.  Arthur was there.  That made me happy.  He is a smart rider with better conditioning than I.  If I was smart, I would stick with him and learn a thing or two… if I was smart!

Lance Armstrong and his group started out first.  After they left, the Ride for the Roses folks took off.  Those are the people who have given the most money in the fight against cancer.  Finally, it was our time to start.

Arthur told me that the first 10 miles would be pretty wild.  Well, he took off and before I knew it, I couldn’t see him!  He was slicing and dicing and making his way toward the front.  For me, it took a little longer to find the openings, but I was able to catch up with him.

It wasn’t long after that we came up on the group led by Lance.  It was cool to be out there riding while rubbing elbows with Kevin Livingston, Taylor Phinney and his dad Davis, as well as Lance Armstrong.  There were some other pros and former pros out there, but I didn’t know enough about who was who to know all the names.

Then I found myself up in a breakaway of three riders.  We were moving along at a pretty good pace.  It allowed us to stop and take a natural break.  Just as we were finishing up, the group came over the hill and we were able to get back in.  Looking back, that was very important because there were no more breaks for the rest of the ride!

At that point, I just marked Lance and his guys.  I knew they would ditch me in a heart beat and getting in a breakaway was pretty stupid.  I faded in and started working within the group to conserve.

The roads were incredibly rough.  They were rough asphalt roads going through hilly ranch country.  We had to cross multiple cattle guards.  That was another nice thing about riding in this group.  We were clicking along at 22 to 26 mile per hour and I felt entirely comfortable because I was confident that these guys knew what they were doing.

Then we hit a wide smooth road.  We had just climbed and things were leveling off and the moderately rolling.  I found myself off the front in another breakaway.  However, it wasn’t just any breakaway… I was in a five man pace line with Lance Armstrong!  We were rolling at over 30 mph.  The line kept rotating and at one point as I came around I could feel that Lance was looking over to see who his interloper was hanging with his boys.

Finally, I reached the point where I felt if we did one more rotation I would be spit out the back.  Lucky for me, the riders eased up at that point.  I was able to slide back again and rest a bit.  It was a good thing, the roads got rough again and the hills returned.  Hey, don’t think all of Texas is flat!

My next encounter with Lance came after a climb.  Everyone was riding in a double pace-line.  The way this works is two riders ride up front and when they are done leading the group, they split and the next two riders move up to the front to lead for a while.  As we reached the top of a climb and we came to a turn, the lines shuffled and I led the group into the turn by myself.

As soon as we turned, I could see a long hill ahead — probably 200 yards or more.  Then I sensed someone rolling up to my left.  It was Lance.  We started to pull the group together.

I looked over and said, “Hello from Greenville, SC.”  He smiled and said, “Oh, you rode here with that group?  George told me about you guys.”  We talked a little more about the Challenge to Conquer Cancer Ride and then he said, “I’ll have to e-mail George and tell him I rode with you.”  At that point, we were about 50 yards from the top of the climb.  I said, “I’m going to pull off up at the top.  Being up here is a little out of my league.”  Lance replied, “Hey, you’re working harder than me.  Just ease up and take it easy.  There are a lot of hills up on this next section.”  “Thanks for the warning,” I said, “I think I’ll just fade back and rest up for them.”

Okay, I know I was stupid.  I wasn’t naive to think that I was going to be finishing with the front group.  However, how many times do you get to ride in a five man pace-line with a seven time Tour de France winner?  It isn’t everyday you get to pull a group of riders with Lance Armstrong as your partner.  At that point, I was fine getting dropped when the time came.

It did come.  The group had shrunk to no more than 30 riders as we neared the final 20 miles.  We neared a sag stop where there were a whole bunch of people from other rides standing by the road.  Arthur had overheard something I didn’t hear and he made sure he gapped the field before we reached the SAG.

I learned why as I moved through the crowd.  Lance had sent some of his boys up the road (Arthur was marking them) and as he moved through the crowd he drew a lot of attention.  It clogged the road and I had to slow.  Then as soon as we where through the zone, Lance took off for his “protectors.”  By the time I made it through, there was already a good sized gap.  I knew right then I was dropped.

Arthur was still up there, though I never saw him again.  He said he was dropped not long after I was, but he was able to hang with some other riders and finished the entire ride in the top 10.  For awhile, I was all alone.  That was tough.  I kept trying to keep up my pace, but I was fighting negative thoughts.  Thankfully, before long, three guys who had stopped at the SAG came moving around me.  I fell in line.

We worked together pretty well.  However, I was feeling a cramp coming in my left calve.  The good news is that it worked itself out and I actually started feeling better and better as we continued to pace ourselves.  Before I knew it, we were pulling into the finish!

I believe my finish was in the top 15 or 20.  My Garmin was driving me nuts on the ride as it kept losing the satellite signal.  Because of that, I’m not exactly sure what my finish time was, but best I can figure I finished the 90 miles between 3 hours and 45 minutes and 4 hours.  We averaged over 22.5 mph for the entire ride!

What a day!  Now it is all over.  Still, I have some great memories of this week.  What a ride to cap it off!