What’s it like to cycle the Hill Country with Lance Armstrong?

Pam LeBlanc rides part of the Texas Hundred course with Lance Armstrong and race director Andrew Willis on Tuesday May 23, 2017. Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman

 

What’s it like to spend a morning bicycling alongside Lance Armstrong?

It feels like someone tied cinder blocks to your pedals, for one. You’ll never ride as fast as him, and you know he’s sandbagging it just so you don’t feel like a complete dufus.

I climbed into Armstrong’s SUV Tuesday morning for the hour-long ride to Burnet. We pulled off there to wait for another cycling maniac, Andrew Willis of Holland Racing, who has calves as big as my waist and last summer rode his bike halfway across the country in a fun little jaunt called the Ride Across the West, or RAW.

Lance Armstrong joked that Pam LeBlanc needs a new bike. Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman

 

So yeah, I was in over my head. What’s new?

Armstrong (yes, I know – he won seven Tours de France and then had those titles stripped after he admitted to doping) chuckled a little when he pulled my bike out of the back of his SUV.

“Maybe it’s time for an upgrade?” he joked.

I’ve been riding the same Trek 5200 for 13 years. It’s taken me from Seattle to Portland, all the way across Iowa, from Houston to Austin, and back and forth to work a few thousand times. I like it a lot.

Lance Armstrong and Pam LeBlanc rode about 20 miles through the Hill Country on Tuesday. Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman

 

Armstrong also told me my bike needed a tuneup and a good cleaning. All true. But I’ve got news for you, Lance Armstrong: It’s not about the bike.

When Willis showed up, the three of us climbed aboard and headed out to preview the route of Saturday’s WeDu Texas Hundred, a century bike ride (with a 20-mile option) that starts and finishes at Reveille Peak Ranch near Burnet.

Lance Armstrong, left, Pam Leblanc, center, and Andrew Willis, right, right through Burnet County on Tuesday. Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman.

I bike to work almost every day, but my 7-mile leisurely commute just doesn’t compare to riding with Armstrong and Willis, even if they were just keeping the pedals moving.

“I’m not fast,” I told Armstrong. “Actually, I’m pretty slow.”

“What?” Armstrong said. “No way.”

Pam Leblanc and lance Armstrong stop to check out a herd of zebras along the Texas Hundred course. Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman

We flew up and down rollers, paused to admire a herd of zebras, slowed down at slick creek crossings and cattle guards, and rambled over washboardy sections of gravel on our tour, which covered about 20 miles. I pedaled at my normal tepid pace, which ranges from about 12 to 16 mph. (Sometimes much faster, if I’m coasting downhill!)

This was fun and humbling, all rolled into one.

Lance Armstrong and Pam LeBlanc prepare to ride part of the Texas Hundred course. Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman

We chatted about all kinds of stuff, from my recent paddle trip on the Devils River to nearby places Armstrong could take his kids for fun. I was surprised to hear he’d never been to Enchanted Rock, and he wanted to get suggestions on other places for outdoor recreation. He also talked about the downright awesomeness of the Texas Hundred route, which takes cyclists across the north end of Inks Lake, past some beautiful granite outcroppings and onto meandering, traffic-free, two-lane country roads.

When our odometers passed 20 miles, we pulled off. Armstrong and I piled our bikes back into the SUV, while Willis turned around to do it again.

I was tired. The guys were not.

While Willis pedaled on, Armstrong and I drove back through Lampasas, stopped for sandwiches at Schlotzky’s (the waitress didn’t recognize him), filled up with gas (the guy we asked to snap our photo did) and headed back to Austin.

Pam Leblanc interviews Lance Armstrong before they ride part of the Texas Hundred bike course . Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman

 

While I poured myself back into my own car for the quick drive home, Armstrong had other plans. A trip to the gym, for one (seriously?), then some time with long-time girlfriend Anna Hansen.

It turns out that later last night, Armstrong popped the question, asking Hansen to marry him.

She said yes.

Read more about the WeDu Texas Hundred in the Life & Arts section of Monday’s paper, or online at http://www.austin360.com.

Pam LeBlanc rides part of the Texas Hundred course with Lance Armstrong on May 23. Photo by Liz Kreutz for American-Statesman


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