The Armstrong Story - Part IV

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07/28/2003| 0 comments
by Ian Melvin

The Armstrong Story - Part IV

Part IV - A turn for the worse.

Part IV - A turn for the worse <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>

The season began well for the Motorola rider.  Early season performances included a good 2nd place overall behind Laurent Jalabert in the Paris-Nice event.

1996 brought for Armstrong what he'd been threatening since turning pro four seasons previous - a classic win.  At the finish of Fleche Wallonne, having dropped his breakaway compatriot Didier Rous, Armstrong said, "I was super motivated today and I wanted to race smart.  No way was I ready to come second again."   He was no longer considered the young American up-start; instead he was emerging as one of the strongest and tactically smart one-day racers in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>
Europe.  One week later he was there again in the Liege-Bastonge-Liege event where he finished 2nd.

A motivated Motorola team again traveled to the
US
to compete in the annual Tour DuPont.  Having already won three stages and taken the yellow jersey, Armstrong said, "The team will be riding defensively now.  We are just going to defend the yellow jersey."   True to his word, they defended the jersey admirably but also helped their leader take a further two stage victories.   After this event Armstrong took an unprecedented three-week break from racing and returned to
Austin
to recover from his efforts before returning to
Europe for the Tour of Switzerland to help him finalize his preparation for the forth coming Tour de France.

Following the drama of the previous Tour de France, 96 proved to be a real non-starter.  Struggling to find any form, Armstrong was forced too abandon on the wet and windy tenth stage to Aix-les-Bains after picking up a respiratory infection.  European journalists mocked him accusing him of not wanting to race in the cold and wet and to be focusing on the soon to follow Atlanta Olympic Games instead.  His form just wasn't there and after being considered one of the top contenders for Olympic glory, Armstrong had to contend himself with 12th in the road race and 6th place in the time trial.  These were respectable results but something wasn't right.

Towards the end of the summer, Lance recorded another high finish with a 4th place in the Leeds Classic.  Armstrong was now 7th in the UCI world rankings and showing himself to be one of the greatest up and coming one-day riders of his generation.

With the withdrawal of Motorola's sponsorship for the following season, Armstrong found himself as one of the most sought after riders on the transfer market.  He eventually signed for Cyrille Guimard's new Cofidis team after lengthy discussions with Marc Madiot's La Francaise des Jeux squad in what was rumored to be a contract worth over one million dollars per year.

After finishing what many considered being his best and most consistent season to date on September 15th, Armstrong returned to
Austin
to recover and prepare for the following year. 

Just days before the World Championships in Lugano, Armstrong called a press conference and confirmed to the stunned European press that he had been diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer on

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