Riding with Lance Armstrong
Having grown up in Los Angeles, I tend to be unfazed by celebrity sightings. One exception: Paul McCartney, whom I spotted in Franklin Canyon, while I was on a bike ride in the Santa Monica Mountains a few years ago. He's one of my cultural heroes.
The other exception is Lance Armstrong, whom I rode with today. A couple of years ago, I also rode with him – and 500 other cyclists – for a couple of miles, when he put in an appearance in Hollywood.
That ride, up famed Sunset Blvd., was in the dark. Hundreds of crazed cyclist tried to come close to Armstrong, which meant risking life and limb. I kept some distance from Armstrong, one of the world's greatest bike racers and the philanthropist behind the Livestrong charity.
Sunday morning, Armstrong was in town again, for the semi-annual CicLAvia, when several miles of city streets in the heart of Los Angeles are closed to motorized traffic. I knew Lance was going to be on the official's stand at 9:30 a.m.
Telling myself that my ride with Lance was enough, I decided to join several regular Sunday morning cycling friends from the Los Angeles Wheelmen. We pedaled a few miles to the western edge of CicLAvia. At 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning, when we started off, all the streets in L.A. were fairy empty of traffic.
Joining the wonderful CicLAvia route proper, we made our way a few miles towards downtown. As we reached City Hall, we saw a significant number of cyclists heading towards us. It was Lance and perhaps 40 other cyclists who surrounded him. My friend, photographer Ted Soqui, and I found ourselves instantly fazed by seeing Lance, and we turned around to join the parade.
Above: the western start/finish of CicLAvia, on Melrose Ave.
Although we passed thousands of riders pedaling the opposite direction, and overtook a few hundred heading our way, virtually no one recognized who was leading our pack.
Above, my friend, photographer Ted Soqui, is interviewed by the weekend sports anchor, Andy Adler, for a local t.v. station.
Armstrong didn't seem to have any retainers around him. It was just Lance Armstrong, out for a group ride in Los Angeles. No camera crew filming from a truck, as it was on the Hollywood Ride, no retinue of riders keeping the rest of us at bay. He was just a friendly bike rider who accelerated a lot faster than the rest of us; thank goodness there were some stoplights along the route to slow him down a little.
With so few riders around Lance – several others seemed to have fallen off the pace – it was easy for anyone to ride next to him, and even exchange pleasantries. Drafting Lance was a treat.
At the western end of the ride, Lance dismounted. Before climbing into an SUV, he paused for photographs with every cyclist who asked to pose with him, yours truly included.