Lance Edward Armstrong: Innovator and Contributor

By Koki Kato

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong

Road racing is arguably the highest profile branch of cycle sport.  Among road races, the Tour de France is one of the most popular races. One reporter says, “The Tour de France is not just a bike race, it is an adventure. Probably one of the biggest adventures left on this planet. Completing it is equal to getting to the summit of Mount Everest.” The Tour de France is a special race for road race fans. The Tour de France is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. In its long history, there have been many records and stories. The man with the best record and most championships in the Tour de France is Lance Edward Armstrong. One of his nicknames among players and the media was “The Boss”. It shows he was respected by many people.  Moreover, he overcame cancer to achieve his record. This great achievement encouraged people. However, he was accused of doping by the USADA (U.S Anti-doping Agency) on June 12th, 2012. He had been suspected of doping since 2001 by his teammates but he denied it. Finally, he admitted that he was doping on an American TV show in January 14th, 2013.  Although Lance Edward Armstrong has been stripped of his titles due to banned substances, he contributed to cycling and society by creating a new bicycle strategy and by founding a charity institution.

Lance Edward Armstrong is a controversial, professional American road racer. He was born in America in September 18, 1971. He grew up an only child because his mother divorced before he was born. When he was 12 years old, he started swimming. However, he quit after a few races and he started the junior triathlon, a sporting event in which athletes compete in swimming, cycling and running. Actually, he has trained in cycling since he started swimming because he rode a bicycle on his way to and from his swimming school. In 1987-1988, he became a No.1 triathlete in the under 19 group. At 16 years old, he became a professional triathlete and he was champion of the National Sprint Triathlon in 1989-1990. After that he turned into a professional cyclist in 1992. In 1993, he won a UCI Road World Championships.  Between 1999 and 2005, he won the Tour de France 7 times. He also won the Thrift Drug Classic and La Flanche Wallone in 1994. In 1996, he was diagnosed testicular cancer – stage three (advanced) at 25 years old. He overcame his cancer and was declared cancer- free. In 1996, he founded “LiveStrong” an institution that helps cancer patients. Lance Armstrong retired from racing at the end of 2005, but he returned in the 2009 Tour de France and he retired again in February 16, 2011. In June 2012, USADA (US- Doping Agency) charged him with having used illicit performance- enhancing drug. At first, he did not admit to the charges, but finally he did on January 14th, 2013. The UCI removed all his awards that he had won since January 1998 and permanently expelled him form cycling. Lance Armstrong made a great impression and his honor was removed. However, he is considered to be one of the greatest professional cyclists in cycling history.

Although Armstrong has been stripped of his titles because of doping, he has contributed to cycling by creating a new cycling strategy. In fact, although he used performance enhancers, he won many games because he was strong. It was not only his strength but also the fact that he was doing something different from other players: high cadence cycling. High cadence cycling is pedaling at a very fast tempo. Typically, when cyclists reach a mountain their cadence will slow down because they have to fight an incline. However, Armstrong does not slow down even when he reaches a mountain.  High cadence cycling is more efficient than slow cadence cycling. There is one important reason why; high cadence cycling is efficient.  Lactic acid is removed faster with than with slow cadence. It means players are able to keep their output power longer than slow cadence and they can ride a bike faster and for longer distances. The University of Wisconsin and the University Wyoming did an experiment. They compared riding at 50 rpm and 100 rpm. (rpm suggests how many times player rotate the crank in 1 minute) The result was that racing at 50 rpm uses many muscles and is quite stressful for muscles. On the other hand, 100 rpm burns much fat and is moderate for muscles. Players are able to supply energy from fat while they are racing but they cannot restore their muscle at that moment. From these results it is clear that, high cadence cycling is better than slow cadence cycling. High cadence cycling is very efficient and good strategy. However, regular people are not able to mimic it. It sounds easy because a person just needs to pedal fast but it is difficult to maintain momentum. Neuromuscular adaption is required which means it needs both the nervous system and the muscles. In fact, Armstrong spent a long time to acquire it.  He showed us the new strategy of cycling and its efficiency was proven. Even today, many players are using high cadence cycling. Because of high cadence cycling Armstrong is considered an innovator in cycling competition.

Armstrong has also contributed to society by founding a charity institution. After he overcame his cancer, Armstrong founded the institution, “Livestrong,” in 2003. This is an institution to help cancer patients. This institution has supported over 2.5 million patients by donation from the public. Over 500 million dollars were donated and it was used not only for cancer patients but also their families. Livestrong’s main way of get donations is selling yellow wrists bands.  This wristband was developed by Nike and launched in May 2004 as a fundraising item for Livestrong. It comes in many colors at $3.90.  This foundation also helps to cure cancer by supporting cancer research institutions.  Armstrong also contributed to other charitable events by using his fame. He joined the “Tour of Hope,” a charity event to raise funds for s community transformation project in developing countries. At this event, he wore a uniform that had a logo of Bristol- Myer Squibb, (BMS) a cancer research organization. Armstrong also teamed up with BMS to help educate people about the importance of cancer detection and how to get proper treatment.

To sum up, Lance Edward Armstrong contributed to the world of competitive cycling and to society. He created a new strategy of cycling that is used by many people today. Also, he contributed a lot to society, especially to cancer patients and cancer research. Even though he used performance enhancing drugs and was stripped of his honors, he continues to contribute to society through his charitable works and he is still considered by many to be the world’s the greatest cyclists.

 For further reading

 Walsh, David. From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France. New York, Ballantine Books, 2007,