Cyclist. Born September 18, 1971, in Plano, Texas. Raised by his mother Linda in the the suburbs of Dallas, 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, 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 with them in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He 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.
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 another stage race, the Settimana Bergamasca race, in Italy 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, which he won, finishing two minutes ahead of his closest rival, Viatcheslav Ekimov of Russia, who had defeated him in 1994. He repeated at the Tour DuPont in 1996, setting 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.
In October, 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 had continued to maintain that he was going to race competitively again. No one else seemed to believe in him, however, least of all Cofidis, who canceled 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.
Back in competitive shape by 1998, Armstrong took fourth place at the World Road Race Championship. He went on to win several events, including the Cascade Classic, the Rheinland Pfalz Rundfardt, the Spring 56K Criterium, and the Tour of Luxembourg. In the summer of 1999, Armstrong returned to the Tour de France, the grueling 2,274-mile crown jewel of international cycling. His comeback garnered worldwide attention, especially when he began to dominate the race, pushing aside rumors that his miraculous recovery had been spurred on by performance enhancing drugs (frequent blood and urine tests showed no trace of such substances).
A leader from the start, Armstrong won the event by more than seven minutes over his closest rival, Alex Zulle of Switzerland. With a record-breaking average speed of 40.2 kilometers (or 25 miles) per hour, he became only the second American to win the Tour de France and the first to win at the head of a largely American team. (The other American to win, Greg LeMond, had ridden with French teams for his victories in 1986, 1989, and 1990.)
In July 2000, Armstrong dominated the Tour de France yet again, silencing those critics who had claimed that his 1999 victory had been without the presence of some of his major rivals. He posted a final time of 92:33:08, finishing six minutes and two seconds ahead of Germany’s Jan Ullrich and becoming the second American (after LeMond) to repeat as Tour champion.
In late August 2000, Armstrong suffered bruises and a shock to the system when he and another cyclist were hit by a car while biking in Southern France. He was not injured seriously and recuperated in time to compete at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, where he won bronze in the individual time trial.
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, he ran the New York City Marathon, raising $600,000 for his LiveStrong campaign.
Armstrong married Kristin Richard, a public relations executive he met through his cancer foundation, in 1998. The couple had a son, Luke, in October 1999, using sperm frozen before Armstrong began chemotherapy. Twin daughters, Isabelle and Grace, were born in 2001. The couple filed for divorce in 2003. Since then, he’s dated rocker Sheryl Crow, fashion designer Tory Burch, actress Kate Hudson, and TV star Ashley Olsen.
Armstrong retired in 2005, only to announce three years later, on September 9, 2008, that he planned to return to competition and the Tour de France in 2009. He placed third in the race, beaten by his teammate, race leader 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 Radio Shack. The retail chain will also sponsor Armstrong as a runner and triathlete.
In December 2008, Armstrong announced that his girlfriend, Anna Hansen, was pregnant with his child. The couple started dating in July after meeting through Lance’s charity work. The baby boy, Maxwell Edward “Max” Armstrong, was born on June 4, 2009, in Aspen, Colorado.