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Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong (born September 18, 1971) is an American cyclist. After surviving a bout with testicular cancer, he won the Tour de France five consecutive times (from 1999 to 2003). The only others to win the Tour five times are Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Induraín. Induraín is the only other cyclist to win five consecutively.

Armstrong was born in Plano, Texas and was raised by his mother, Linda, whose spirit and independence has often been cited by Armstrong as his greatest influence. Armstrong began his sporting career as a triathlete, competing in seniors' competitions from the age of 16. It soon became clear that his greatest talent lay in the cycling leg of the event.

After competing as a cycling amateur - winning the US amateur championship in 1991 and finishing 14th in the 1992 Olympics road race - Armstrong turned professional in 1992. The following year he scored his first major victory as he rode solo to win the World Championships on the Road in Oslo, Norway.

His successes continued with Team Motorola, with whom he won a stage in the 1995 Tour de France and several classic one-day events. In that same year, he won the premier U.S. cycling event, the Tour DuPont, having placed second in 1994. He won the Tour Dupont again in 1996. In 1996, after abandoning le Tour; however, it was announced that Armstrong was suffering from testicular cancer that had metastasized. He was given a 50% chance of survival and managed to recover after invasive surgery to remove brain lesions, and a severe course of chemotherapy, performed at Indiana University School of Medicine. While in remission he resumed training, but found himself unceremoniously, if unsurprisingly, dropped by his Cofidis team. He was eventually signed by the newly formed US Postal Service team, and by 1998, he was able to make his successful return in the cycling world.

His true comeback came in 1999 when he won the Tour de France for the first time, a performance he repeated in the four following seasons. Armstrong has proved all but invincible during this time, due to his unique ability both as a time triallist and a mountain climber. He has made a career of the Tour de France, training in Spain for the year leading up to a Tour. The fact that Lance Armstrong can afford to train exclusively for the Tour gives him a big advantage over other competitors. While the success of Armstrong's year is solely determined by his Tour performance, other cyclers must compete in many events to earn a living, which decreases their ability to prepare for the Tour. Pedalling very quickly in a very low gear he is able to rapidly accelerate away from his main rivals who tend to use higher gears but pedal more slowly while riding uphill unlike Indurain who would power a huge gear at a low cadence. Armstrong can maintain incredible speeds even when going up the most daunting climbs of the Tour and at times even specialist climbers are unable to keep pace with him on a consistent basis.

However, unlike most gifted climbers, Armstrong is also exceptional in the individual time trial, as good as, if not better than, those physically more suited to the discipline, such as rival rider Jan Ullrich. Also, unlike many of the past winners of the Tour, Armstrong is very aggressive during the mountainous stages - preferring to take the lead and attack spectacularly. Although these attacks usually come towards the end of stages, he is capable of opening immense leads over his rivals and leaving the rest of the field scattered behind him down the mountainside.

In his fifth Tour victory, however, Armstrong was forced to ride a more calculated race, as he was unable to mark all the attacks of some of the fringe contenders, instead preferring to concentrate on his main rival Jan Ullrich. This, coupled with a sensational individual time trial by Ullrich midway through the race, made it the closest and most exciting Tour for years. Armstrong eventually defeated Ullrich by just over one minute after gaining vital time with a punishing attack on the final mountainous stage and then comfortably holding his advantage during a treacherously wet and windy time trial on the penultimate stage when Ullrich crashed.

In 2002, Sports Illustrated magazine named Armstrong their Sportsman of the Year.

Armstrong is, without a doubt, one of the greatest riders of all time and his achievements are made all the more remarkable in the light of the illness he suffered a few years back. After his fifth Tour de France victory (which many believe to be his best yet) on July 27, 2003 he promised to come back to compete in 2004, to go for a record sixth consecutive Tour de France victory.

Armstrong had a baby boy with his wife shortly after his amazing comeback victory, and twin girls two years later, however they have recently divorced after 5 years of marriage.

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