At three o'clock in the morning somewhere between Auxerre and Lyon on the European Bike Express bus, I dreamed that I had an exclusive interview with Lance Armstrong. Armstrong is the Texan cycling supremo who recovered from advanced testicular cancer to win the Tour de France five times in a row. One condition was imposed: the interview had to be conducted on bicycles. This seemed reasonable. The greatest cyclist since Eddy Merckx could not be expected to sacrifice training time to journalistic chatter. In any case, there was a noble precedent. In the first Tour de France, in 1903, a journalist rode along with the competitors for the first part of the 467-kilometre stage from Paris to Lyon, before heading for the nearest train station and rushing back to Paris with his report. Only two things prevented this from being the high point of my career as a writing cyclist. First, for reasons that remained obscure, the interview was conducted in an English town where the car-centric 'cycle network' forced us to push our bikes through a maze of potholed lanes and 'Cyclists Dismount' signs. Second, I woke up before Lance could reveal his secret strategy for winning the Tour de France a record sixth time.
LRB 19 August 2004 | PDF Download