Seen in a rear-view mirror, the Tour de France record-holder’s comeback from cancer may look inevitable, but it was anything but.
In 1998, when he’d whipped the disease and decided to race again, Armstrong thought he’d resume winning. Immediately. Just by virtue of the fact that he’d beaten cancer.
But he didn’t win. At all. The truth was that he’d been off the bike for a year and a half, and it wasn’t so easy to come back. He grew despondent and “fell out of love” with his bike, his sport and his job. He quit.
“That’s a story that nobody tells,” he says. “I was done with cycling forever.”
After awhile, Armstrong’s friends sat him down and gave him a good talking-to. They told him he couldn’t flame out, that at least he had to finish the season. They reminded him that he’d promised as much to his team and a large group of cancer survivors.
So, Armstrong gave it a try. He found a remote training camp and “fell back in love with the bike.” During eight days in cold, pouring rain, he started up the road back to the top.
—Adapted from “Graduates Get an Earful, From Left, Right and Center,” Sam Dillon, The New York Times.