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The Next Stage

May 08, 2006
May 08, 2006

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May 8, 2006

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The Next Stage

There's a new mountain for Lance Armstrong to climb. He wants a billion dollars for the fight against cancer, and he won't stop until he gets it

Lance Armstrongwill drive the pace car, a 505-hp Corvette Z06, at the Indianapolis 500 on May28. Tip for Indy officials: Feed him before he gets behind the wheel.

Earlier this year Armstrong was piloting his black BMW M5 at roughly twice thespeed limit down a rural highway while devouring a teriyaki beef wrap from thetakeout window at Roscoe's, the culinary acme of Dripping Springs, Texas. Thebusiness of eating the wrap while dipping chips into a small container of salsaforced him to take both hands off the wheel periodically and steer with hisleft knee. When his passenger offered to take the wheel, the Texan fixed himwith the Look.

"You do the interview," he directed. "I'll drive the car and eat mylunch."

You remember the Look: the glare that bored holes in the psyches of Armstrong'sopponents while he won seven straight Tours de France, beginning in 1999. TheLook made seasoned professionals quail, robbed them of hope, bade them askthemselves, Why do I even bother?

Armstrong may have walked away from competitive cycling last July, but thepower of his glower is undiminished. Ten months after his final descent fromthe top step of the podium on the Champs-Elysées, he is focusing his gaze, hisattention, his displeasure--the Look--on an old foe, the one that came close tokilling him a decade ago.

This is an article from the May 8, 2006 issue Original Layout

Having finishedhis wrap and arrived at his destination, Armstrong sat at the dining-room tableat his home outside Austin, sifting through a pile of correspondence. Hestopped at a card that said, From Our House to Yours: the Kunz family. Itincluded a snapshot of a good-looking couple and their two young children. Thewoman had been dead for six months. She succumbed to cervical chordoma, a rareform of cancer that, Armstrong believes, has a 100% mortality rate. "Imean, what kind of odds are those?" There is the Look again as he answershis own question: "Unacceptable."

SPENCER SARTIN wasdiagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in October 2004. Suddenly, everyonehe met wanted to stick a needle in him. There were needles to take his blood, aneedle to knock him out so he wouldn't feel the even bigger needle that doctorswould use to draw bone marrow from his hip. Spencer is now six years old, inremission and on the cover of this magazine. (He's the one in the yellowjersey.) But he will remain in treatment for another 20 months, and he needs somany shots--for chemo, for spinal taps, for the flu--that he has forbidden hisparents to use the word around the house. When Spencer needs an injection, hisfather, Rob, lets him know by using American Sign Language. "You point yourright index finger at your left biceps," says Rob, "and pushdown."

Before his sonfell ill, Rob had raised more than $5,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.In fact, Spencer first exhibited the symptoms of his illness--the stubbornfever that finally persuaded his pediatrician to order blood work--while hisparents were at a dinner for Ride for the Roses, a cycling event that raisesfunds for the LAF. Little wonder, then, that the boy has gone on the offensiveagainst his affliction. It's as if, in addition to the chemo, he hasArmstrong's attitude pumped into his veins. Spencer signed up for martial artsdespite being, on some days, too weak to walk from his bedroom to the kitchen.And last October he and his father completed the 40-miler at the Ride for theRoses. Spencer pedaled a Trail-a-Bike attached to Rob's hybrid. "He workedhis butt off," his father says. He also raised $32,500 for the LAF.

Spencer is a footsoldier in what could be called Armstrong's Army, a generation of cancerpatients who are the opposite of passive victims. They are, like him,warrior-survivors. If he walked away from the fight today, that would be hislegacy. But he isn't walking away. He's just getting warmed up.

THESE ARE the bestof times and the worst of times in the fight against cancer. In 2003, a yearafter becoming director of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Andrew vonEschenbach stunned the medical community by setting the goal of"eliminating cancer as a cause of suffering and death by the year2015." Praised by some for his bold optimism, the director was attacked byothers who found his objective unrealistic and--in the likely event that thegoal is not met--certain to undermine the credibility of the NCI, thegovernment's main spigot for the approximately $5 billion a year that flowsinto cancer research and training.

Without the spurof a deadline, Von Eschenbach argued during an interview last February--a monthbefore President Bush nominated him to head the Food and DrugAdministration--big goals are "meaningless." He then held forth forhalf an hour on why his target is within reach. He spoke excitedly about the"molecular metamorphosis" that has taken place over the last decade andabout recently developed "proteomic and genomic tools that can detect thepresence of cancer long before somebody's got a big lump." He waxedoptimistic about "advances in information technologies, opportunities to beable to use those tools, including the Internet, in a way that makes patientsparticipants, rather than passive recipients, in their treatment." Heasserted, "We've got the ball across midfield. If we just applied what wehave in hand"--for example, persuading Americans to undergo preventiveprocedures such as colonoscopies--"we'd be getting pretty close to the redzone."

This "redzone" talk makes Hamilton Jordan red in the face. "Almost half thepeople alive today will have cancer in their lifetimes," thunders Jordan, afour-time cancer survivor who served as President Jimmy Carter's chief ofstaff. (As baby boomers age, decreases in mortality from other diseases willdrive up cancer rates.) "That's a damn epidemic. And what are we doingabout it? If you went back and added up all the budgets for the National CancerInstitute over the past three decades, we spent as much money on cancer as wespend in Iraq in nine months."

Von Eschenbach'sgung-ho prognosis belies the kidney punch recently delivered to the veryscientists on whom he must rely to meet his audacious goal. The day before VonEschenbach gave his glowing assessment, the executive branch he serves proposedcutting the NCI's budget by $40 million, to $4.75 billion, for fiscal year2007. The NCI is one of 27 centers and institutes run by the NationalInstitutes of Health, whose budget was also decreased, for the first time in 36years. In the current environment, says Doug Ulman, 28, a three-time cancersurvivor who is the chief mission officer for the LAF, "people graduatingfrom medical school fellowships and residencies are saying, 'I can't go intoresearch. There's no money.'"

That may notchange anytime soon, says Bush's more wonkish predecessor, an ardent FOL(Friend of Lance) who says he watched "almost every stage" of the 2005Tour de France. "Regardless of which party takes the Congress next fall, orthe White House in '08," says Bill Clinton, "we're stuck with this bigdeficit [projected to be $3.3 trillion over the next decade]. Even with asubstantial change in policy, there will still be an enormous set of gapsbetween what the market will produce and what the government can provide. Andthe nongovernmental sector has to step into those gaps."

A mention of theubiquitous Armstrong-inspired yellow wristbands triggers a Clintonian riff onhow "the Internet and mass marketing mechanisms have increased the power ofprivate citizens to do public good ... particularly if they are well led,whether it is by Bono or Bill and Melinda Gates or Lance Armstrong."

So this is whatArmstrong does for an encore. This is the next hors catégorie mountain loomingbefore him: raising money, raising awareness, cajoling, bullying,shaming--"making a significant difference in the battle against what'sgoing to be the Number 1 killer in America," Armstrong declares."That's how I make seven yellow jerseys look small."

"Ten yearsfrom now," says Clinton, "we may say Lance's second career was greaterthan his first."

Bono, by the way,thinks Armstrong should run for office. "Most people don't believe that theworld can be changed," the Irish rock star and political activist says."Lance is different. He understands that hills can be climbed, and he isn'teven depressed when, upon reaching the summit of one, he sees a larger one[ahead]. He's used to that. That's what Lance Armstrong stands for."

Ixnay on politics,says Armstrong, who fears that the moment he chooses a political side, he willhalve his influence. "I need to run for one office," he says, making upa title as he goes along, "the presidency of the Cancer Fighters' Union ofthe World."

He might have towrest that title from Michael Milken, a cancer survivor whose Prostate CancerFoundation has helped transform cancer research, streamlining the grant processand requiring recipients to share their research. According to the NationalCenter for Health Statistics, in 2003 there were 369 fewer cancer deaths in theU.S. than the previous year--the first decrease in 70 years. That's due in partto Milken, the former Wall Street financier who spent 22 months in jail in the1990s for securities violations. Milken has smarts, money and access to thecorridors of power. What he does not have, says the LAF's Ulman, is the ability"to reach millions of people."

Unlike Armstrong,in other words, Milken is not sitting on an army. The LAF has sold more than 60million yellow LIVESTRONG wristbands. Armstrong and his advisers are stillthinking about how and when they will mobilize that army--whose ranks theyencourage you to swell by clicking on www.livestrong.org. But when they do,says LAF marketing director Dave Lyon, "we're going to have an awfully bigcannon to point."

Until then,Armstrong is enjoying life, smothering his three children with affection (theyspend almost half their time with him; their mother lives less than two milesaway), mountain biking on his ranch and doing homework: reading cancerliterature and debriefing experts on cancer-related issues. For every day hehas spent catching up on all the fun he missed over the last 10 years--at theRose Bowl in early January, Armstrong and fellow Texan Matthew McConaughey"tried to pack a four-year undergraduate experience into 48 hours," afriend recalls--there is a day like Feb. 17, when the LAF brought together someof the brightest minds in the fight against cancer. The panelists wereinstructed to put all options on the table and suspend disbelief. "Don'tthink about what can't happen because of current realities," said Ulman."Think about what needs to happen in your field." Armstrong scribblednotes and asked questions throughout the day.

Armstrong couldcoast now, says Bono, his friend and mentor ... and a man who knows a littleabout leveraging celebrity to do good. "But Lance wants to go back toschool. And that makes him very dangerous. When a great man goes back toschool, the Devil gets very depressed."

The devil is downthere somewhere. Shortly after dark on Jan. 24 Armstrong is looking out thewindow of a private jet at the skyline of Las Vegas. He isn't crazy about thecity; he doesn't like to gamble. "I worked too hard for my money to bethrowing it away," he says--a remark that sounds funny coming from a manwho will be paid $150,000 to deliver a 30-minute speech to a group of Carrierair-conditioner salesmen on the following afternoon.

That's only onereason the man is not clipping coupons in retirement. Nike has extended itslongtime relationship with Armstrong, Trek has conferred "athlete forlife" status on him, and other companies are lining up to cash in on hisaura. Most notable among them is American Century, the Kansas City-basedinvestment house that manages $100 billion of assets and signed a three-yearendorsement deal with Armstrong in February. Armstrong is especiallycomfortable with American Century: It is partly owned by the Stowers Institute,which was founded by Jim and Virginia Stowers, two cancer survivors who want togive their grandchildren, in the words of institute cochairman Richard Brown,"better choices for the treatment of illness and injury." Afterinvestigating dozens of centers in hospitals and universities around thecountry, and being turned off by what Brown describes as the "heavilybureaucratic, very expensive overhead layer of costs" often associated withacademic research, the Stowerses decided to build their own institute.

It opened inNovember 2000. With its $2 billion endowment and its promise to scientists thatthey can spend their time doing research instead of writing grant proposals,"we have achieved noteworthy success in a short period of time," saysBrown. "I'm certain we would qualify as candidates for rookie of theyear."

So when Armstrongteamed up with American Century, his foundation linked up with the StowersInstitute, which shares his scorn for red tape and his impatience forbreakthroughs. Brown was among the panelists invited to stir the pot at thatFeb. 17 roundtable. He left impressed by the LAF's willingness to disrupt thestatus quo and by Armstrong's qualifications to lead the fight. "Lance hasbeen in the darkest places a human can imagine," says Brown, "andfought his way out."

The morning of hisspeech in Vegas, Armstrong calls a reporter. He wants to go for a run. (Heplans to run the New York City Marathon in November.) "Lobby in half anhour," he says. He arrives incognito in Cool Hand Luke shades and a USDAForest Service ball cap, a gift from some rangers in the Angeles NationalForest, where Armstrong did a photo shoot for a Dasani water ad.

One strategy forrunning with someone much, much more fit than you is to have him do most of thetalking. I ask Armstrong about his bike ride with President Bush last August.Armstrong is one of the three members of the President's Cancer Panel. Duringlunch at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush asked his guest what he needed inthe fight against the disease. Replied Armstrong, "A billiondollars."

He followed thatup with a letter to Bush in January reminding the President of his request andsuggesting "it's time for a bold initiative to combat this disease whichkills 560,000 Americans every year." Attached was an outline of the firststeps in that initiative, a collaboration between the LAF and the AmericanCancer Society. At the bottom of the cover letter Armstrong dashed off ahandwritten note: "Let's get back on the bikes ASAP!"

"Karl Rovecalled the next day," says Armstrong. The President's adviser praisedArmstrong's initiative and said the Bush Administration wanted to work with himbut did not promise any money.

This is the orbitin which Armstrong now travels. After this morning's jog, he will have lunchwith Steve Wynn, whose name is on the side of the hotel in which we're staying,and an orange-robed Tibetan monk whom Armstrong later will describe as the"Dalai Lama's assistant." Over tuna tartare, Armstrong plants a seed:He wonders about the possibility of holding an LAF fund-raiser at Wynn'sresort. These galas, along with the sale of wristbands, are the foundation'slifeblood: In one week last fall, LAF fund-raisers in Austin and New York Citytook in $12 million.

Of course, whileit's great to raise "a million or a hundred million or 200 million,"Armstrong will tell his audience of Carrier reps this afternoon, "what wereally need is the b word, and that's billions." When Armstrong isinvolved, there is always hope: The next day he is scheduled to speak withWhite House budget director Joshua Bolten, who will follow up Rove's call.

Just before 2 p.m.Armstrong is led down a corridor at the MGM Grand--the very corridor, he willsoon tell his rapt listeners, in which he was introduced to Sheryl Crow. Ninedays later he and Crow will officially break off their five-month engagement.Two nights after that, during his weekly Sirius satellite radio show, Armstrongwill describe Crow as "one of the wisest, most gifted people I've evermet," a woman who showed him "a love that I never knew," and hewill play the song Letter to God, off her album Wildflower, whose title songwas inspired by Armstrong.

(On Feb. 24 Crowwill reveal that she has breast cancer and has undergone "minimallyinvasive" surgery. After 33 radiation treatments, according to her website,she plans to begin touring on June 12.)

Waiting forArmstrong in the greenroom is a gaggle of yellow-shirted Carrier executives,including Geraud Darnis, the company president. "I grew up in France,"he tells Armstrong, hastily adding, "I am a big fan."

In the arena,after an introductory video, Armstrong strides down a ramp to the lectern,which he doesn't need, since he will speak without notes for the next 35minutes. "I was a little surprised when I found out that a French guy runsthe company," he tells the reps, whose laughter fills the room. Armstrongis off and running even before unsheathing one of the most powerful weapons inthe fight against cancer: his story. He transports his audience to the M.D.Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where a doctor pulled aside Armstrong'smother, Linda, to tell her, "We don't think your son's going to makeit."

In his book It'sNot About the Bike, Armstrong recalls how, on that grim morning, the oncologistoutlined a treatment protocol involving the drug bleomycin, which would sodamage his lungs that he would not be able to race again.

Weeks earlierArmstrong had opened an unsolicited letter from Steven Wolff, an oncologist atVanderbilt's medical center who happened to be a cycling buff. Armstrongrecounts in his book how Wolff urged him "in strong terms to get a secondopinion from Dr. Larry Einhorn at Indiana University." Einhorn, Wolffexplained, was the foremost expert on testicular cancer.

Armstrong followedWolff's advice, and in the end he bailed on M.D. Anderson, one of the world'smost highly regarded cancer centers, in favor of the Indiana University MedicalCenter in Indianapolis. There a colleague of Einhorn's named Craig Nichols gaveArmstrong "almost a coin flip of a chance," then suggested aplatinum-based chemotherapy protocol that would not compromise his lungs.Armstrong also had two lesions on his brain. While a standard treatment wouldhave been radiation, Nichols and his colleague Scott Shapiro agreed that byexcising the lesions instead, they would run a much smaller risk of damaginghis cycling career.

By collaboratingwith his doctors and questioning them, by occasionally interrupting and evenoverruling them and generally making a nuisance of himself, Armstrong saved hiscareer--and possibly his life. Von Eschenbach credits him not just with givinghope to millions but also with providing a template for cancer treatment.

"A lot ofpeople in cancer are still looking for the magic bullet," Von Eschenbachsays. "Lance has demonstrated that it's not magic. It's personalcommitment, bringing all the pieces together. There's no simple solution, butthe impossible can be possible."

To bring thosepieces together, Armstrong asks many questions. The video shown before hisspeech featured six-year-old footage of the cyclist on an early spring trainingride up an alp called the Col de la Madeleine. It was raining and cold. U.S.Postal Service Team director Johan Bruyneel pulled alongside Armstrong in thefollow car and said, "There's snow six kilometers from the top,"Bruyneel said.

"Huh?"Armstrong replied.

"You cannotpass."

"How muchsnow?"

"A lot. Froman avalanche."

"What if Ikeep going?"

"You can't.Three meters of snow. Guy says there's no way you can ride. No way."

"Who saysthat?"

And so on. This ishow Armstrong rolls. By continuing to ask questions long after most of us wouldhave become resigned to our fate, he eventually hears a palatable answer. Canthis persistence be annoying? Absolutely. But it is useful in someone whointends nothing less than to change the world.

In the end he andBruyneel stopped before the avalanche spot. Bruyneel told Armstrong to get inthe car, told him he was done for the day. Armstrong begged to differ. "Ithink I'm going to ride a little more," he said, "go down 10K and comeback."

As the Texanvanished down the mountain, Bruyneel stood in the rain, his grin cutting thegloom. "That's what it takes to win the Tour," he said. "Trainingin this weather. Nobody sees that."

Doug Ulman wassitting in his dorm room at Brown in October 1997 when he got an e-mail from astranger: I just wanted to let you know that, as athletes, we have a lot incommon. I've just started the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I know you have yourown organization; if there's any way we can work together, let me know.

Doctors had toldUlman in August 1996 that he had a rare form of cartilage cancer. Rather thanundergo chemo, he had part of his rib cage removed. "When I wasdiagnosed," he recalls, "I couldn't find any other people between 15and 35 who had cancer." So he started the Ulman Cancer Fund for YoungAdults.

Ulman received twomore cancer diagnoses over the next 10 months. Both times it was malignantmelanoma; both times it was successfully excised. Despite these scares, Ulmanhelped Brown win three Ivy League soccer titles in four years. In 2001 he washired by Armstrong, who describes him as "arguably the brightest young mindin this fight" and who cheerfully tolerates his chief mission officer'ssingle shortcoming: Ulman is afraid to fly. He can bring himself to do it, butjust barely. Early in the flight from Vegas back to Austin on Jan. 25 Armstrongasks the pilot to swing low over the Hoover Dam. The pilot takes a hard left,dipping the wing sharply, pinning the passengers to their seats and inducingnear panic in Ulman, who shouts, "What's happening? Why are we doingthis?"

Once the planelevels off, Ulman--having regained his composure and natural color--approachesArmstrong. The LAF's Washington-based lobbying firm has put together a dossieron Bolten, with whom they'll speak the next day. "Let's see," saysUlman. "Supposed to be a really nice guy.... He was executive director oflegal and government affairs at Goldman Sachs in London.... Works tillmidnight.... Went to Princeton.... Likes motorcycles. Loves to bowl."

Armstrong nods.Considering the cost of the war in Iraq and the reconstruction of New Orleans,he doesn't expect much from the White House. And that's getting him worked up."We're talking 1,500 people a day [dying from cancer], and it's not even onthe political radar," he says. The problem, he goes on, "has beenaround so long, people have grown accustomed to it. They say, 'It's a shame. Hewas 75, he had prostate cancer, he didn't make it, but he had a good life.'Well, bulls---! He could've been 90 and been to another graduation, met hisgreat-grandchildren."

Why is Armstrongso qualified to lead in this fight? Bono puts it this way: "We need winnersadvocating for the poor and the vulnerable. We need people who hate losing.Lance hates losing."

The voice on thespeakerphone is Bolten's. He tells Armstrong and Ulman, who later summarize thecall for SI, that he knows how much President Bush values his relationship withArmstrong. However, he says, "I cannot give you encouragement about what'sin the '07 budget."

"Yeah,"says Armstrong. "We had a feeling."

Bolten explainshow long it takes to get a line item in the budget and says this budget wasbasically "written by September."

"That's why weasked in August," Armstrong replies.

Armstrong issitting at a conference table in the offices of his foundation. At the far endof the table are four-year-old twins coloring furiously. Grace and IsabelleArmstrong are in the house.

Bolten is graciousas he explains how Hurricane Katrina eliminated any "flexibility" theAdministration might have had in its budget. He repeatedly complimentsArmstrong on the initiative the LAF sent to the White House. Bolten suggests a"dialogue" between the Administration and the LAF. After all, it won'tbe long before preparations for the '08 budget begin. (Ulman and Armstrong willtravel to D.C. to meet with Bolten on March 28, the same day the White Houseannounces that Bolten will become the President's new chief of staff. Boltenstill makes the meeting.)

When Bolten tellsArmstrong that he admires "what you do and how you do it," the Texanthanks, then browbeats him: "This should be a priority for everybody. Theproblem is too big, and it's only going to get bigger. I know there's Iraq andAfghanistan and Katrina, but this is more important."

In a smaller, morespartan office down the hall, Dave Lyon is going about his new job as the LAF'smarketing director. He is in his third month with the foundation. Before thathe'd spent 14 years as president of Texas-based TM Advertising. "You canonly sell so many cars, so many bags of chips," he says. His face, asceticin appearance--the face of a monk or a marathoner--lights up when he smiles."Lance is not about incremental progress," Lyon says. "He wants todo something disruptive in this fight. Meaning, very big." Lyon wouldn'thave left his plush advertising gig to work for someone who wasn't ready tobreak some crockery. On March 27, 2005, Easter Sunday, his daughter Meredithdied of a cancer called neurofibrosarcoma. She fought the disease for nearly ayear. Meredith Lyon had just turned 15.

Before dying, sheendured seven surgeries, two of which lasted 12 hours, at M.D. Anderson. Lyonremembers hunkering down in the waiting room before one of those ordeals."We were just another family sitting in the corner, trying to braceourselves," he recalls. "All of a sudden, the top officers from thehospital started showing up, asking us if there was anything they coulddo."

Lyon had metArmstrong briefly while working on a Subaru ad. "We weren't veryclose," Lyon says, "but he reached out as if we were family."Armstrong--who, despite having rejected M.D. Anderson's treatment plan in 1996,has a good relationship with the hospital--had "called the very top [peopleat] the hospital to make sure we had what we needed," Lyon says.

"When you gothrough an experience like that, you learn an enormous amount," Lyoncontinues. "So when the lights go out, you realize: I have knowledge I canapply. Where do I put all this fight I still have in me?"

He is putting itinto his new job, which consists of locating, then activating the legions oflike-minded people wearing yellow wristbands. "Sixty million people haveraised their hands in solidarity with Lance," Lyon says. "These peoplewant to be told what they can do. They want to make a difference." Ex-adguy that he is, Lyon has distilled their yearning into a pithy phrase."What they're looking for," he says, "is the Next RightThing."

Up the hallArmstrong is pondering how to respond to the Bolten teleconference. Does hecall out the Bush Administration or hope that a year from now, when it's timeto announce the '08 budget, the President does right by his fellow Texan?

Hamilton Jordan,for one, believes it's time for the army to affix bayonets. Jordan, who sits onthe LAF's board, says, "You ask the American people, What's your greatestfear? It's not terrorism. It's not crime. It's cancer. And it's a rationalfear. I'm not saying don't talk with Josh Bolten. But they oughta be gettingthe damn army geared up too."

Back on thefreeway, behind the wheel of that sleek and sinister-looking Beemer, the headof that army is sounding bellicose. The $146 million raised by his foundationis all well and good, he allows. "But to find a cure, you're intogovernment money." To affect policy, he says, "you've got to vote as abloc. If we have an army of five million speaking with one voice--that's realpower. We should make the NRA look like the Tiddledywinks Association ofAmerica."

It is Friday.After flying from Los Angeles to Vegas on Tuesday and Vegas to Austin onWednesday, Armstrong will head back to the airport. He is due in Ojai, Calif.,for a sponsors' dinner for the Discovery Channel cycling team. "I need tobe more retired," he says. In truth, he does not seem worn out. He seemsenergized and engaged--liberated, at long last, to take on his life's work.

Before driving tothe airport, he conducts a brief tour of the house next door, which hesometimes calls the Money Pit: the home that he and his children will soonoccupy. The high point of the tour, for Armstrong, is the bedroom of his son,Luke. Its walls are adorned with dinosaurs: a pterodactyl, a triceratops, aT-Rex whose dull eyes and obvious voracity recall Armstrong's former cyclingrival Alexander Vinokourov. "My son," he says, "has the coolestroom of any six-year-old in the world."

The spacious houseis luxurious in an unostentatious way. In the front yard, serving as acounterweight to the mansion's spanking brand-newness, is a massive oak, a treethat appears to have been on that spot for at least a century. Appearances, inthis case, are deceiving. "That tree right there?" Armstrong says."Used to be over there." He points to a lot 200 yards away. Arboristsjacked it up with hydraulic lifts, slid a flatbed under it and rolled it overto its new home.

"I can'tbelieve that was an option," says a visitor, and Armstrong responds in atone suggesting the visitor has not been paying attention: "C'mon, man.Everything's an option."

SI.COM
Read more about Lance Armstrong and see a photo gallery from his cycling careerat SI.com/moresports.

This is the next hors catégorie mountain before him:"the battle against what will be the NUMBER 1 KILLER in America."
Armstrong is ENJOYING LIFE, smothering his threechildren with affection and doing homework on cancer-related issues.
Longtime partner Nike has extended its relationshipwith Armstrong, and other firms are lining up to CASH IN on his aura.
"A lot of people in cancer still look for the MAGICBULLET. Lance has shown that it's not magic. It's personal commitment."
PHOTOLYNN JOHNSON (WRISTBANDS)BANDLEADER - Wristband sales and a partnership with American Century are helping tofund Armstrong's crusade against cancer.PHOTOJOHN SLEEZER/THE KANSAS CITY STAR/AP[Seecaption above]PHOTOPAUL MORSE/WHITE HOUSE/WIREIMAGE.COMBIGWHEELS - After their bike ride, Armstrong told Bush he needed $1 billion tofight cancer.PHOTOJOHN BIEVERHOOKED -Longhorns fans Armstrong and McConaughey hooted it up at the RoseBowl.PHOTOLYNN JOHNSONAIRLANCE - Armstrong commutes from Austin to business and charity events byprivate jet.PHOTOGIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GETTY IMAGESGOINGGLOBAL - Armstrong helped launch a health program in South Africa inJanuary.