Lance Armstrong keeps chin up in Aspen

Cycling legend finishes second to teenager in adventerous mountain bike race

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenAugust 30, 2012
Don't cry for him, Aspen. Lance Armstrong says he'll be just fine.

A day after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency disciplined him with a lifetime ban from professional cycling and vacated his seven Tour de France titles, Armstrong wheeled his mountain bike across the Power of Four finish line for a second-place finish in a grueling 36-mile race across four Aspen ski mountains.
Lance Armstrong charges down Aspen Mountain.
Photo by Troy Hooper

A throng of fans quickly engulfed Armstrong, congratulating him on his performance and offering words of encouragement.

"Nobody needs to cry for me. I'm going to be great," he said after the race Saturday.

Asked more than once before the race to reflect on his tumultuous week, Armstrong reminded reporters he doesn't intend to address the doping allegations — which he has steadfastly denied — ever again.

Armstrong nearly won the race, losing to 16-year-old Keegan Swirbul of Aspen. The two bikers were back and forth for the first two stages of the race, then Armstrong pulled ahead in the third stage. Swirbul powered his way past the 40-year-old Armstrong in the fourth stage to win with time to spare.

"I couldn't be more psyched," Swirbul said. "I wanted to race against him my whole life and I finally got the opportunity. It worked out perfectly. It's been a dream of mine."

Swirbul said he exchanged text messages with Armstrong before the race to make sure Armstrong was competing, and they talked about the controversy.

"He said he can't win that battle. He's ready to move on," Swirbul said. "Who are they going to give those titles to? The next five guys are actual dopers. They're going to have to go way down (the list)."

Armstrong didn't want to discuss his situation and heaped praise on Swirbul instead. "It's cool to get your butt kicked by a 16-year-old when you know he has a bright future," he said. Swirbul beamed as he stood next to Armstrong.
Lance Armstrong talks with reporters after the race.
Photo by Troy Hooper

Despite all the racket, Armstrong said there is "more work to do" and that, however his legacy plays out, he plans to keep things in perspective. "I have five great kids and a wonderful lady in my life," he said. "My foundation is unaffected by all the noise out there."

As for what lies ahead, Armstrong wasn't thinking that far — only toward lunch. Armstrong chatted for a few minutes before saying, "OK, I'm going to go eat a cheeseburger."

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Editor's note: A version of this story originally appeared in the Austin American-Statesman.

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