By Anthony Tan
He may be residing at the Hilton this week, but besides being American, that’s all Lance Armstrong has in common with the party-going daughter of the famous hotel empire, who, on her recent New Year’s trip Down Under, had sand thrown in her face when she took a stroll on the sands of Bondi Beach.
No, last Sunday evening Armstrong was clapped and cheered — never jeered — by thousands upon thousands of adoring fans (official figures say 138,000) who stood ten-deep in places around the 1.7 kilometer Rymill Park circuit, emphatically banging the barricades in homage to the legend that is Lance.
Just before the race, South Australian Premier Mike Rann likened the comeback to that of Mohammed Ali and Michael Jordan — even speculating that it could even be in a class of its own.
Tuesday’s 140km undulating run from Norwood to Mawson Lakes, held in a region not too far north of Adelaide city, was more to the seven-time Tour winner’s liking.
“With the preparation we’ve put in to get to this point, the only thing I can point to is a little bit more stiffness and soreness, which I suppose is normal for somebody in their upper 30s,” said Armstrong. “But the recovery is good, the power is good. I don’t want to say I feel the same as I did in my early 30s but I’m not far off, I feel pretty strong.”
So what would constitute failure?
“Failure would be a broken collarbone or obviously if I was the first guy dropped on Tuesday that would be a failure; that would not be good,” he said modestly.
From the typical, precocious, know-it-all — to a still brash though humbled one-of-a-kind cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France winner — and now, to Comeback King of Cycling who some have awarded the moniker ‘Lance 3.0’ — this new Armstrong appears to be a man transformed.