Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Ride with Lance Armstrong

It was February in the Big Bend country of Texas in 1991. (I would be 30 years old then but a racing age of 31.) I was on Merlin #1 with its rigid fork. I was feeling good and having a good race. I had already passed the 1990 World Downhill Champion, Greg Herbold on the start of the climb. He was suffering. After Herbold, there didn't seem to be many riders in front of me. There were a few up ahead, and I'd do my best to reel them in. I was in the zone, mostly riding alone, enjoying the desert and the ride.

As I reached the summit of Tres Cuevas (Three Caves) Hill, I saw Armstrong in his Motorola jersey. He was the buzz all weekend...the new kid...he's really good...some kind of prodigy...When I saw him, I thought to myself, "That's that guy! He's supposed to be really good!" He was just getting back on his bike after fixing a mechanical or flat. I pedaled faster to catch him before he got away.

It was a two track "jeep road" so we rode side-by-side, me left, him right. We exchange greetings, and I asked him if he'd ever gone down Tres Cuevas before. His reply was no. I told him to be careful because it gets really steep.

We did a couple of little stair-steppy drops still side-by-side, and road got steeper still. We soon came up on a guy wearing a Wild Oats team jersey who was obviously a roadie...this guy was flailing...literally. I was still on the left line, Armstrong on the right. We split and passed the guy, going around him on either side.

About a 100 meters ahead was the first switchback. Armstrong told me to take the lead. I lead the way through the hard right-hand turn, popped over a little berm/rock outcropping in the road, and set up for the second switchback coming up, a left-hander. A few meters down from this point is a ranch house on the left with its barn on the right. I knew the road was smoother and improved here so I got into my best aero tuck and took my hands off the brake levers. I maintained this position as long as possible. I couldn't pedal any faster. I must have hit about 40 - 50 mph...fast for a full-rigid XC mountain bike.

The road gets to the desert floor where it is a series of small rolling hills. It was here where I dared to glance behind me and saw Armstrong at least 200 meters behind me. I pedaled like crazy in my biggest gear.

I reached the final check-point at the final major turn of the race. 9 miles to go!

As I went through the check-point I refused water and just wanted to stay ahead of Armstrong. I was hammering hard when Armstrong pulled up next to me. He said, "That was fun! Let's ride in together." I replied, "I can't...my legs are spent...you go ahead." and he did. He dialed it up to the next level and left me in his dust.

The next 7 miles was single-track through the Chihuahua desert. Really beautiful stuff, and all I could do was try and keep Armstrong in my sights, which I did for about two or three miles. The final 2 miles parallels the landing strip and on to the finish line in Lajitas. When I got there, about 2 minutes behind Lance, he was still there talking to someone. I rode through the finish, then coasted over to him, shook his hand and said, "Good race!" He said the same and said thanks for leading him down the hill and that it was fun!

It was one of my better expert category races. I don’t remember my placing…in the top 20 though.

7 comments:

nierman said...

Cool story! I rode with a famous cyclist that rode with a famous cyclist!

Mimbres Man said...

I used to be somebody...I was a con-ten-daa.

Echelon said...

I played golf with Johnny Miller. Does that count.

Why didn't you beat the SOB?

Jack

Bruce said...

I wrestled with an All-American in college (was actually his take-down dummy). Is that the same?

There may be tonnes of Lancephobes out there, but I'd still ride with the guy.

Bruce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mark scotch said...

I got passed, very politely I might add, by Chris Eatough, at 24/9 mile a couple years in a row.
Of course he was doing it solo and I was on 4 man team.

Mimbres Man said...

Mark...I passed Ned Overend in a race in Albuquerque when he flatted. I thought "cool! I'm ahead of Ned!" I was just cruising along on this tight single track when suddenly I hear "TRACK!" behind me. It was Ned...I immediately pulled right and let him pass and said, "GO NED GO!" I didn't feel like a loser...Ned rocks!