Union Writers Long Trek to Interview Cyclist
Lance Armstrong, Sacramento Union Writer
Published: February 19, 2009
The spotlight shined upon Sacramento last week with the arrival of the
2009 Amgen Tour of California, as many of the worlds greatest
professional cyclists rode through the streets of the capital city.
And the most noted of these cyclists was undoubtedly seven-time Tour
de France winner Lance Armstrong.
With the news that Armstrong the cyclist would be coming to
Sacramento to compete in the 2.4-mile Prologue of this grand, nine-
day, 750-mile tour, which is considered Americas most important and
successful stage race, it seemed appropriate to The Union to send none
other than myself, Lance Armstrong the writer to the tours
After all, it would be an opportunity missed in irony alone not to
have Lance Armstrong report about Lance Armstrong.
So, assigned to attempt to meet up with and report about the cyclist,
I, the writer, began my adventure.
The Tour de Lance
With a bit of a delay as the tours public relations department took
additional precautions to confirm the veracity of the existence of
Union writer Lance Armstrong (it turned out that I was for real after
all), I was cleared to cover the race and its preceding events.
Although tour officials informed me that the possibility of obtaining
any exclusive interviews or photographs with Armstrong the cyclist
would be highly unlikely, I was determined to take my chances.
My first stop was at the Feb. 12 Amgen tour press conference at the
Sheraton Grand Hotel at 12th and J streets, where Armstrong and other
tour riders answered questions from the media.
The topics of the questions for Armstrong the cyclist ranged from his
return from retirement and drug testing in sports, to the tour itself
and his racing teams strategies.
Managing to stay reasonably fit during his more than three-year
retirement, Armstrong the cyclist, who began his professional racing
career in 1992, spoke with confidence regarding his recent return to
racing, training and readiness for the tour.
I feel strong. At 37 [years old], I feel just as good as I did at
25, he said.
And when it came to discussing his own drug testing, Armstrong the
cyclist, who said that he has been personally tested 16 or 17 times
since the last racing season despite an untarnished record of clean
testing, said, If I was trying to pull a fast one, I wouldnt tell
you where I am every couple hours.
Armstrong, who said that his Astana Cycling Team is hoping for an
absence of cold, wet days during the tour, added that his comeback is
There are two parts to my comeback, he said. One is the race, but
more important, really, is the thought and the idea and the initiative
to take [cyclist Armstrongs cancer fighting program] Livestrong
around the world.
During the conference, Armstrong received two gifts. From the mayor,
he received a Kevin Johnson bracelet and from me, he received, in a
much less formal manner, a copy of The Sacramento Union with an
article about my adventures at one of Sacramentos greatest
recreational assets, the American River Bike Trail.
Making a Race of It
I would have attempted to parallel the mayors gift, but I recognized
that Armstrong the cyclist assuredly had access to a few Lance
Armstrong bracelets, considering the mass production of the Lance
Armstrong Foundations yellow Livestrong wristbands that are sold in
support of cancer awareness and research.
After the press conference, which was attended by about 200 local,
national and international media members, I headed to the Memorial
Auditorium for a black tie-optional gala, which included a speech by
Armstrong the cyclist and presentations of participating racing teams.
Following entries into the auditorium by such cyclists as two-time
defending Amgen Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer, 2006
Amgen Tour of California champion Floyd Landis and two-time U.S.
national champion George Hincapie, Armstrong the cyclist eventually
made his way into the building, where I greeted him with a handshake.
The meeting of the two Lance Armstrongs was brief, but would be
rekindled in a hallway at the auditorium when just prior to his
speech, Armstrong told me that he would meet up with me following the
Unfortunately, at least in this case, the historic auditorium was not
built with just one door and I was left waiting at the wrong door on
the J Street side of the building as a black SUV containing Armstrong
the cyclist pulled away on the I Street side of the building.
With just two days remaining before the tour left Sacramento,
obtaining any more personal interaction with Armstrong in the capital
city appeared to be much more of a challenge.
Out Lance-ing Lance
Since I was informed that Armstrong would likely not attend a
breakfast event the following morning, I opted to set my sights on
Feb. 14, the day of the race.
The day began a bit dismal, as I arrived early to the race site just
west of the Capitol and encountered thousands of people who shared my
dream of interacting with Armstrong.
It was somewhat of a surreal experience as everywhere I went I heard
people saying my name, yet their conversations had nothing to do with
After scanning the area for any Lance Armstrong the cyclist sightings,
I made my way to the media check-in, where I had a bit of a delay in
obtaining my press badge when I was told, No, thats not your name.
Such words were quite familiar to me, since I had experienced similar
difficulty obtaining my press badge two days earlier at the press
conference and was told that I could pick up the badge on the day of
With no badge waiting for me on race day, the delay continued as a
badge bearing my name and affiliation was eventually prepared, thus
making me official.
Unfortunately, it took a heavy dose of complicated situations and
retrospection before I realized the value of carrying a copy of my
birth certificate whenever attempting to cover any cycling-related
But I certainly was not the only Lance Armstrong who underwent a rough
time last week, as Armstrong the cyclist experienced the unloving
adventure of having one of his bicycles stolen at 15th and L streets
in Sacramento on the evening of Valentines Day.
Eventually, after some more investigating, I tracked down Lance
Armstrong the cyclists tour bus not far from the race site.
It was there that I camped out waiting for an opportunity to have just
about any kind of interaction with Armstrong the cyclist, blending in
with a huge crowd desiring to do the same thing.
Fortunately, my previous communication with Astanas press officer,
Philippe Maertens, proved to be extremely valuable.
Through the graciousness of Maertens and a few hours of waiting on my
part, my request for a brief, yet exclusive meeting with Armstrong was
After a quick greeting and a conversation about our shared name,
Armstrong turned to a cheering and somewhat envious crowd and while
pointing to me, he said, Hey, thats Lance Armstrong!
As the buzz of the crowd continued, the globally-famous cyclist looked
at me and said, Youre Lance Armstrong. Theyre cheering for Lance
Armstrong. Theyre cheering for you. These are your fans.
With a smile on my face following his kind words, I responded by
saying, No, theyre ourfans.
So, with a bit of work, history was made last week as the pair of
Lance Armstrongs united right here in the capital city.
Heck of a Race
And although personal interaction was relatively brief between the two
Lance Armstrongs, it was nonetheless an eventful experience one that
also carried with it a two-fold mission; documenting the historic
Sacramento appearance of a famous American who shares the same name as
a Union writer and helping to clear up some of the Union readers
continuous misconceptions that Lance Armstrong the cyclist moonlights
as a Sacramento Union reporter.