Tue, Jul 26, 2011 | by RAGBRAIShare
CARROLL – World renowned cyclist and Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong met fellow Livestrong members, RAGBRAI riders and locals before pedaling off on Tuesday’s route toward Boone.
Several dozen people gathered in Graham Park under the shade of large trees and plush grass in front of Livestrong’s large black-and-gold bus. The cycling celebrity made his appearance in a white T-shirt, casual shorts and shades before changing into his traditional spandex Livestrong uniform and matching sunglasses in preparation for today’s ride.
“This is an interesting festival on bikes,” Armstrong said. “You have thousands come from all over the world and it isn’t necessarily easy with the heat, wind and people camping out. It’s a tough experience; you have to really want to do it.”
Armstrong stopped to pose for several photographs with fellow Livestrong members and locals. He also signed jerseys, T-shirts and wristbands as some of his biggest fans grinned and gawked.
Armstrong flew Monday from Paris to Ames so he could participate in one day of RAGBRAI before venturing back home to Colorado. He said his favorite part of the Iowa ride is the cold beer, pie and people.
“The groups of people are so nice and they love to ride bikes,” he said. “What else do you need?”
Though there was a mix-up in time and some Iowa lawmakers could not be in attendance for the cancer discussion, Armstrong still commented on the importance of cancer research, awareness and prevention.
Armstrong highlighted some of his frustrations with the federal budget situation, national economy and the toll he said it takes on research and science. But even in tough financial times there is still hope, he said.
“There are a lot of things we can do for free to prevent the disease through our lifestyle choices,” he said. “Like exercising, choosing not to smoke or abuse certain things. That makes a difference in the long run.”
George Weiner, director of the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, was in Carroll to greet Armstrong. Weiner said the promotion and work Armstrong does for cancer awareness is phenomenal.
“He’s such a fantastic inspiration,” Weiner said. “When those going though treatment hear his story they say, ‘I can do this!’ It is very valuable that he stays involved.”
Weiner reiterated the point that even with continuing research and discoveries, still one-third of cancer prevention relies on the lifestyle and habits people choose.
“One-third is behavior, one-third is genetics and one-third is just luck,” he said. “All you can control is the behavior.”
Kathy Hodge, of Carroll, arrived at the park and RAGBRAI campsite early with her two grandchildren. Hodge wanted to meet Armstrong because he was an inspiration to her, she said. Her son, Andy, lost his battle with cancer after a tough 13-year fight.
“Lance Armstrong brought it (cancer) to attention. Andy wore his Livestrong bracelet all the time,” Hodge said. “Andy lost his battle but Lance didn’t and I think it’s great he continues to promote it.”
Other fans were just there for all the hype the ride has brought the community. Jeff and Anna Rathnam live just a few blocks from the park and raced down when they heard Armstrong would be making an apperance. Disposable cameras in hand and flashing, the couple said they’ve been chasing the RAGBRAI festivities since riders started rolling in last night.
“It’s kind of like a bonus (with all the other excitement RAGBRAI brought),” 63-year-old Jeff Rathnam said. “I called all my relatives in Michigan and said this ain’t no bike rally, old man Lance is going to be here in a few minutes, I got to go.”
With the surplus of festivities and excitement RAGBRAI brought Carroll, 60-year-old Anna Ratham is now considering gearing up herself for next year’s ride.
“That was amazing and inspirational” she said. “It makes me want to get in shape and do it next year!”
— Katie Stinson