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By John Wilcockson
Not too many cyclists get things named for them. There’s a Sean Kelly Square in Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland; there’s streets named after Tour de France heroes; and the Aussies named their Olympic velodrome for the 1930s track racer Dunc Gray. But these things generally happen after the athlete has retired … or died. So the naming Wednesday at the Nike world headquarters in Beaverton. Oregon, of the Lance Armstrong Sports & Fitness Center is unusual, to say the least.
“It makes me feel kinda old,” said the 29-year-old Armstrong, who jetted in with his family Tuesday evening from Santa Barbara, California, where he has been training prior to his season debut at Spain’s Tour of Murcia, March 7-11. “It’s a big honor, though, to have the building named for me.” Prior to this, the only “item” to bear his name is the cross-town bike trail in his hometown of Austin, Texas.
The new building — already nicknamed “The Lance” by employees — replaces a company gym named for former two-sport star Bo Jackson, which could not handle the recent influx of 2800 more workers to the Nike campus. “The Lance” is a 60,000 square-foot athletic facility (the size of a giant supermarket) that is also a sort-of monument to Armstrong’s life and career.
Hundreds of personal items are being housed there, including Tour yellow jerseys, trophies and journals. There are four 7-foot by 5-foot blow-up photos of Armstrong in the locker rooms, and in celebration of Wednesday’s dedication, he presented Nike chairman and CEO Phil Knight with the Trek he rode to victory at the 1999 Tour. The center’s 34-foot-high climbing wall is named for the Col de la Madone, the climb that Armstrong trains on near Nice, France. There’s a fitness room named the Verdun, where he took his first Tour stage win in 1993; and family members also get into the act with his mother (Linda’s fitness studio), wife Kristin (Kik’s game room) and son (Luke’s Landing, overlooking the 25-meter, 11-lane swimming pool). Nike expects about 700 people a day to use the facility.
Besides the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, festivities included a group ride, a tire-changing race between Lance and a Nike employee, and standard-setting rides by the Tour champion on the four Treks hooked up to a simulator to mimic parts of 2000 Tour stages. As they say in Austin, “Vive La Lance.”