Lance Armstrong was born on September 18, 1971, in Plano, Texas, USA. Lance was raised by his mother, Linda, in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. Armstrong was athletic from an early age. He began running and swimming at 10 years old, and took up competitive cycling and triathlons (which combine a 1,000-meter swim, 15-mile bike ride and three-mile run) at 13. At 16, Armstrong became a professional triathlete—he was the national sprint-course triathlon champion in 1989 and 1990.
Soon after, Armstrong chose to focus on cycling, his strongest event as well as his favorite. During his senior year in high school, the U.S. Olympic development team invited him to train in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Armstrong left high school temporarily to do so, but later took private classes and received his high school diploma in 1989.
The following summer, he qualified for the 1990 junior world team and placed 11th in the World Championship Road Race, with the best time of any American since 1976. That same year, he became the U.S. national amateur champion and beat out many professional cyclists to win two major races, the First Union Grand Prix and the Thrift Drug Classic.
INTERNATIONAL CYCLING STAR
In 1991, Armstrong competed in his first Tour DuPont, a long and difficult 12-stage race, covering 1,085 miles over 11 days. Though he finished in the middle of the pack, his performance announced a promising newcomer to the world of international cycling. He went on to win a stage at Italy’s Settimana Bergamasca race later that summer.
After finishing second in the U.S. Olympic time trials in 1992, Armstrong was favored to win the road race in Barcelona, Spain. With a surprisingly sluggish performance, however, he came in only 14th. Undeterred, Armstrong turned professional immediately after the Olympics, joining the Motorola cycling team for a respectable yearly salary. Though he came in dead last in his first professional event, the day-long San Sebastian Classic in Spain, he rebounded in two weeks and finished second in a World Cup race in Zurich, Switzerland.
Armstrong had a strong year in 1993, winning cycling’s “Triple Crown”—the Thrift Drug Classic, the Kmart West Virginia Classic and the CoreStates Race (the U.S. Professional Championship). That same year, he came in second at the Tour DuPont. He started off well in his first-ever Tour de France, a 21-stage race that is widely considered cycling’s most prestigious event. Though he won the eighth stage of the race, he later fell to 62nd place and eventually pulled out.
In August 1993, the 21-year-old Armstrong won his most important race yet: the World Road Race Championship in Oslo, Norway, a one-day event covering 161 miles. As the leader of the Motorola team, he overcame difficult conditions—pouring rain made the roads slick and caused him to crash twice during the race—to become the youngest person and only the second American ever to win that contest.
The following year, he was again the runner-up at the Tour DuPont. Frustrated by his near miss, he trained with a vengeance for the next year’s event, and went on to finish two minutes ahead of rival Viatcheslav Ekimov of Russia for the win. At the Tour DuPont in 1996, he set several event records, including largest margin of victory (three minutes, 15 seconds) and fastest average speed in a time trial (32.9 miles per hour).
Also in 1996, Armstrong rode again for the Olympic team in Atlanta, Georgia. Looking uncharacteristically fatigued, he finished sixth in the time trials and 12th in the road race. Earlier that summer, he had been unable to finish the Tour de France, as he was sick with bronchitis. Despite such setbacks, Armstrong was still riding high by the fall of 1996. Then the seventh-ranked cyclist in the world, he signed a lucrative contract with a new team, France’s Team Cofidis.
BATTLING TESTICULAR CANCER
In October 1996, however, came the shocking announcement that Armstrong had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. Well advanced, the tumors had spread to his abdomen, lungs and lymph nodes. After having a testicle removed, drastically modifying his eating habits and beginning aggressive chemotherapy, Armstrong was given a 65 to 85 percent chance of survival. When doctors found tumors on his brain, however, his odds of survival dropped to 50-50, and then to 40 percent. Fortunately, a subsequent surgery to remove his brain tumors was declared successful, and after more rounds of chemotherapy, Armstrong was declared cancer-free in February 1997.
Throughout his terrifying struggle with the disease, Armstrong continued to maintain that he was going to race competitively again. No one else seemed to believe in him, however, and Cofidis pulled the plug on his contract and $600,000 annual salary. As a free agent, he had a good deal of trouble finding a sponsor, finally signing on to a $200,000-per-year position with the United States Postal Service team.
TOUR DE FRANCE DOMINANCE
At the 1998 Tour of Luxembourg, his first international race since returning from cancer, Armstrong showed he was up for the challenge by winning the opening stage. A little over a year later, he capped his comeback in grand style by becoming the second American, after Greg LeMond, to win the Tour de France. He repeated that feat in July 2000, and followed with a bronze medal at the Summer Olympic Games.
Armstrong bolstered his legacy as his generation’s dominant rider by handily winning the Tour in 2001 and 2002. However, notching a fifth victory, tying the record held by Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain, proved his most difficult accomplishment. Stricken by illness before the start of the race, Armstrong fell at one point after snagging a spectator’s bag, and barely avoided another crash by swerving across a field. He finished one minute and one second ahead of Germany’s Jan Ullrich, the closest of his Tour triumphs.
Armstrong was back in top form to claim his record-breaking sixth Tour win in 2004. He won five individual stages, finishing a comfortable six minutes and 19 seconds ahead of Germany’s Andreas Kloden. After capping his astounding run with a seventh consecutive Tour victory in 2005, he retired from racing.
RETURN TO COMPETITION
On September 9, 2008, Armstrong announced that he planned to return to competition and the Tour de France in 2009. A member of Team Astana, he placed third in the race, behind teammate Alberto Contador and Saxo Bank team member Andy Schleck.
After the race, Armstrong told reporters that he intended to compete again in 2010, with a new team endorsed by RadioShack. Slowed by multiple crashes, Armstrong finished 23rd overall in what would be his final Tour de France, and he announced he was retiring for good in February 2011.
CHARITY AND PERSONAL LIFE
Armstrong has lived in Austin, Texas, since 1990. In 1996, he founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation for Cancer, now called LiveStrong, and the Lance Armstrong Junior Race Series to help promote cycling and racing among America’s youth. He is the author of two best-selling autobiographies, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life (2000) and Every Second Counts (2003).
In 2006, Armstrong ran the New York City Marathon, raising $600,000 for his LiveStrong campaign. He stepped down from LiveStrong in October 2012 following the USADA report about his use of performance-enhancing drugs.