Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong took some time during one of the tour's rest days to chat with fans on yahoo.com. Here are some excerpts:
Q: In the off-season, how much is your training increased or decreased?
A: This season, things changed primarily because I was so busy doing a lot of other things. I actually lost some time this winter, because I was busy with charity things -- my form early in the season suffered.
Q: Have you been declared completely (testicular) cancer free?
A: I think we can call it in remission, yes. They wait five years until they give you the "cure" word.
Q: How much do you think it takes mentally and physically to compete in the Tour de France?
A: It takes, obviously, a lot physically. Mentally, it takes a lot just to endure three weeks of racing. When you're on the road, away from home, away from your family, and then you add the difficulties of the heat, the mountains -- it makes for a hard three weeks.
Q: Besides cancer what is your biggest challenge that you have had to work through?
A: Good question. I don't know -- it's so obviously cancer, that it's overshadowed anything I've had to confront before.
Q: Do you like being labeled a "cancer survivor," or would you rather be the "rider who won the race"?
A: Absolutely, I'd prefer the label "cancer survivor." I'm proud of that; that's what I am.
Q: What kind of training did you do to lose so much weight? You weren't exactly mister body fat to begin with. Is this the main reason you've climbed so well this year?
A: Actually, I can thank my illness for losing the body fat. I'm close to 20 pounds lighter because of the illness. When I was sick, I lost all of my muscle, and was able to build back the body in a different way.
Q: Lance, has getting married and being a future father changed your goals?
A: Absolutely. If you get married, then you have more responsibility, as you should have if you're going to bring a child into the world. With Kristin, I've added a friend, and a partner, and a teammate, and a soulmate, that I've never had before. We spend eight months a year in Europe, so we're always away from home. It has made my life, away from Texas, complete.
Q: Lance, do you find that enduring the pain and discomfort of going through cancer therapy has somehow prepared you better for the rigors of the Tour?
A: Yes and no. It's not the same pain, but it certainly puts the pain and suffering of the tour in perspective. The pain on the bike is the lungs, the legs; and the pain of chemo -- I don't know if pain is the word; it's just miserable. It's tough to describe. Just a very nauseating, miserable time. Combine the worst stomach flu, headache, hangover and concussion, all into one.
Q: What kind of food, do you eat to keep athletically fit for bike riding?
A: Pasta, pasta, pasta. Cereals for breakfast and bread. It depends what time of year -- before the year, when I'm trying to lose weight, then I don't eat as much pasta. I eat more proteins and vegetables and salads.
Q: Growing up, who were your cycling heroes?
A: None. I wasn't a cyclist when I was growing up. I was a triathelete, so I looked up to triathaletes -- Mark Allen, Dave Scott.
Q: How old were you when you started racing?
A: About 17. Just in the local community.
Q: Do you prefer riding in mountains or flat terrain?
A: Believe it or not, they both can be hard. If you feel strong and you feel good, then the mountains are better for you.
Q: Do you still use your original triatholon training as cross-training in the off season?
A: Nope, never. If I swam, I would get too big an upper body. If I ran, I would probably blow out a knee!
Q: Should helmet use be required on the tour? I saw a lot of guys without one.
A: No, it shouldn't be required. I try to wear mine as much as possible, but we're all adults, and all professionals, and I think it should be left up to the rider to decide.
Q: What advice or comfort words would you offer someone fighting cancer or someone dealing with a family member who has cancer?
A: Both are in a tough position, and I don't know what's tougher. Seeing my family, my friends, and my mother, I know that it was difficult. Find the best doctor. Believe in that person. And fight and be brave. That's all you can do.