By the

August 23, 2001

One of my favorite American heroes, Lance Armstrong, did it again this summer?he won the Tour de France for the third year in a row! I know there has been a lot of talk about his use of performance-enhancing drugs (which he contends he only used while he was recovering from chemotherapy) and his relationship with Dr. Michele Ferrari (a doctor who has been charged with providing cyclists with the banned-substance, EPO). Even Greg LeMond?the last American cyclist to win the Tour de France three times: in 1986, ‘89, and ‘90?refuses to call and congratulate Armstrong.

But Armstrong has tested negative again and again on drug tests, puts up with French criticism for his supposed unfriendliness and is one of the most inspirational sports figures in the world. Who else beats cancer and wins the Tour de France in the same year?

So, of course I decided to be like my hero Lance, become a cyclist and kick butt at climbing hills. Armstrong dominated the mountain stages of the Tour?claiming victory on the famous Alpe D’Huez.

A “cyclist,” however, I am not. I really only ride my bike when there’s no car in the driveway or when I’m feeling exceptionally lazy and try to make myself feel better by biking into town (all of one mile) to pick up lunch (doesn’t that defeat the purpose of biking?) or mail a letter at the post office. I do spin?that’s indoor cycling?at least three times a week. Consequently, for about a year I convinced myself that being a “spinner” and being a “cyclist” were synonymous. But I learned the hard way?while trying to be Julia, the up-and-coming member of the United States Postal Service team this summer?that spinning and cycling are very, very different.

My fateful journey on the road to becoming the newest member of the Postal Service cycling team began, and ended, one sunny day in August while on vacation in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. I joined a bike tour our hotel was offering for the afternoon thinking it would be good training for my ascent into the history books of the cycling world. Everything seemed cool?we got outfitted with our snazzy helmets (mine was a very sleek, metallic blue) and became acquainted with our bikes and their gears before heading off on our adventure.

I should have known right then and there while we were doing laps in the parking lot that my newest career was not meant to be. My gears were screaming so loud that I thought everyone within a 10-mile radius had to be grimacing and covering their ears in pain. To make matters even worse, my toe clips kept capturing my sneakers hostage?but of course that was only when I was trying to stop and get my feet out of them. Five tumbles into the bushes and one scraped knee later, we were off?climbing our own Alpe D’Huez, fondly known in the Berkshires as Route 7A.

With our gears screaming bloody murder, our sweat dripping in puddles at our feet and our butts crying out for mercy, we made it up the first hill and were “treated” to a nice mile-long downhill. Yeah, “treat” it might have been for Dan, the speed demon architect from New York City, but “treatment” it was for me thanks to the shady brakes on my bike that forced me to brake every five seconds out of fear for my life! The scenery along our route was beautiful, and my fellow cyclists and tour guides were hilarious and tons of fun to spend an amazing afternoon with touring the Berkshires.

But my thighs still cry out in pain every time they see my bike, the blister on my thumb (courtesy of shifting gears) is almost healed, and my heart rate jumps to 180 every time I see a cyclist fly down a hill. A “spinner” I may be, but a cyclist I am not. I’ll leave that title to the men and women of the Service team, especially my new hero, Lance Armstrong.

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