TODAY the Tour de France is going to race through my village. Right down the middle! Right down main street. As I am in California, French husband is going to have a banner waving that says, "Wish you were here!" I hope I see him on TV, when the Tour de France rides through. Maybe you will see him too?
Ever since my brother Mathew told me about Lance Armstrong, how he survived cancer, and was (is) a champion beyond the bike he rode, I have considered him my hero. (I know he isn't racing in the Tour de France anymore,) but when he did, he rode with the wind and stole my heart (sorry French husband but it is true.)
A few years ago we followed the Tour de France, by driving to obscure places and waiting for hours for the cyclists to zip by, as we cheered: ALLEZ-ALLEZ!! On one of those trips we hiked 16 miles to Mont Ventoux to watch the yellow jersey. But when we arrived the roads were blocked, and begging and bartering would not change the guards orders to open them for anyone to pass. So we drove to the opposite side of Mont Ventoux and hiked up. We felt like, "Maria and The Sound of Music gang."
As we hiked to the top, many people along the way discouraged us because it was too far, and at the top it was freezing cold. I told them I had to see Lance. That Lance had survived cancer, that he dedicated his first Tour de France victory for those who had survived cancer saying: "Winning the Tour de France is nothing compared to the battle of cancer, this is for you, this is your victory!" (Not the exact words but close enough.) I had to see him.
When we arrived to the top of Mont Ventoux, we saw snowmen. The Mistral was blowing, and the weather was unbelievably cold! Considering it was summer and southern France, we were in shorts. After waiting three hours and nearly turning into a snowmen ourselves we left. I told my children (Chelsea 10 and Sacha 8,) that we had made it to the top of Ventoux, even though many told us we wouldn't, and that was all that really mattered.
After a long hike back to the car, we drove home. By chance on the way home we saw the American UPS team's caravan. I stopped the car, walked over, and started talking to a team member who happened to be the head mechanic for Lance Armstrong. He told me that Lance would arrive any minute.
I mentioned to him that my brother Mathew had told me about Lance, and his battle with cancer, and that I too had survived (ovarian) cancer. That I wanted to see Lance since he dedicated his victory to people like me. That I gained courage in his victories.
The head mechanic said that every night after a race, Lance asked for stories of the day. He asked his team members to collect stories to share about the race. The mechanic said he would share my story that night.
We waited and Lance Armstrong did arrive. As he talked to the interviewer, my shoulder near inches away from his, I started to cry. It was as if I knew then that my cancer was over.
I bent down and picked up a rock that his bicycle tire had rolled over. It remains one of my prized possessions. A hero by my side.