Lance part one.
The Get Well Card
Many years ago I was sitting at my desk when Scott MacEachern, the director of Nike sports marketing for cycling came into my space. I looked up and was about to say something cheeky but when I saw the look on his face I froze.
"Your'e not going to believe what just happened??" He said. He then told me he was sitting at his desk and the phone rang. He picked it up and Lance told him he had just been diagnosed with Cancer and it was BAD! Believe it or not he was the first person Lance called. He told me the details and I was in shock. A little over a week before I had been riding side by side with Lance in Bend, Oregon at a Nike cycling athlete event. The one and only time that ever happened I believe. Lance had complained that he didn't really want to come because he didn't feel that well. The doctor had given him something so he felt ok so and showed up. He did that ride, hung out for a bit and then headed back to Austin. The next day we rode mountain bikes with Julie Furtado and Mike King. I rode behind Mike who bounced off and jumped over every rock, root and tree he could find. It was epic.
I Digress. After Scott left my space the image above popped into my head and I had to get it out. I may have even finished it that night. I knew Lance wasn't going to go down easily, he was going to fight cancer. I wanted to let him know we were thinking about him. The next day I made it into an oversized card and had everyone in the office who knew him and more sign it. I addressed it, licked the stamp and dropped it in the office mail.
I heard through Scott that Lance was had surgery, was going thru Chemo and fighting hard. He was in our thoughts and a month or two went by.
One day I passed Scott in the hall and he stopped me. "You know Lance is carrying that card around and showing everyone?" he said. "I did not, that is cool." I responded. I remember feeling pretty excited that I had given him something he appreciated.
After that I didn't really think about it at all. I kept track of Lance thru Scott and heard he was doing better. A few month later I heard he was doing relatively well. He wasn't riding much but he was riding.
One quiet afternoon I was sitting at my desk and my phone rang. I picked it up and heard "Hey Bill, This is Lance." To say I was in shock was an understatement. He then told me he was going to put on this ride down in Austin to raise money for Cancer awareness and asked if he could use my illustration as the poster.
"Absolutely!" I responded. "I did it for you. Use it for whatever you want." I sent he and one of his contacts the original file. Little did I know this was going to be the beginning of a really grand adventure.
A few months later Scott sponsored an airplane ticket down to Austin and I spent the weekend at the very first "Ride for the Roses." This would be the catalyst and beginnings of the Lance Armstrong Foundation that would morph into LiveStrong.
It was an amazing time, and I lost count of how many people came up to me and told me how wonderful they thought my artwork was. It was truly humbling but it felt great to be part of something bigger than myself and drawing something with meaning.
There were many, many highlights from that weekend but the one of the best was riding from the hotel to the ride start with Jacques Boyer and Sean Kelly (my absolute all time hero!). Just the three of us. After the 100 mile ride we rode back together.
The actual best memory I had was getting dropped on a hill. Not usually the best kind of memory but how it unfolded was. There was a long 8 percent highway drag at about 75 miles in and I came unglued and ghosted off the back as we crested the top going full gas. On the flat I was by myself an holding the gap of a couple hundred meters with the lead group of about 40 riders. I then heard the wooshing sound of a bike in full flight coming up on my left. I was only able to look over in amazement as Sean Kelly ripped by and closed the gap on the group in about 20 seconds. When I looked down my computer said 28mph. Kelly must have been going 35mph. I just shook my head and went back into chase mode. A minute or so later I heard another bike coming up on me and someone said, "come on Bill, get on." When I looked over it was Eric Heiden rolling past still busting out of his old Motorola kit. (I don't mean fat, I mean strong) We had met at Lance's house the day before and I told him the only teenage crush I ever had was with his sister. He laughed pretty hard at that. I now had a an amazing draft as he dieseled us both back up towards the tail of the group. We were getting pretty close but we were loosing steam and I was flat out just hanging on. Just then Lance appeared next to us with a big smile on his face. I swear he was freewheeling."What the hell are you guys doing? Let's go boys." he said as he swung over in front of us and pulled us the last 50 meters or so. Once back on I was tired but never at risk of getting dropped again.
Lastly, we were cruising toward the finish of the ride and the group was starting to hit the turbos. This is the part I love and was feeling no pain going flat out sitting pretty comfortable in 5th wheel. We were flying and you could feel the sprint about to launch. At that perfect moment Sean Kelly flew by so fast it was comical. He looked back and flashed a huge grin. Then the most amazing thing happened, everyone burst into laughter and we all just rolled across the line.
It was an amazing weekend and I met more than a few folks I am still in touch with to this day. Along with others that have become our very good friends.
A few years later at the ride someone came up to me and mentioned something about me inspiring the whole thing. I laughed pretty heartily at that and she then asked if I had read the Austin Chronicle article. I had not but went out of my way to find it. I will take credit for doing a heartfelt drawing. I am glad it was an inspiration but can take no more credit than that. It was an amazing time at the beginning of an era that history isn't done with yet.
The Austin Chronicle by Rita Radostitz, Friday, October 15, 2004"
I just want to do something," Armstrong said, "to make sure that nobody else has to go through what I went through." The others nodded, and the small group began discussing how they might raise money to fund a foundation that would promote education and awareness about testicular cancer. Armstrong admitted that before he was diagnosed he was "the poster child for ignorance about cancer." He was no longer ignorant – he had painstakingly educated himself – and now he wanted to share his knowledge.
The impetus for this particular gathering was a get-well card that Armstrong had received from Bill Cass, a shoe designer for Nike who was also a talented illustrator. His card depicted Armstrong riding his bike through the halls of a hospital with his gown flying behind him – an IV still attached. The card celebrated the fact that after all he'd been through, Lance still could ride a bike.
Bill and Lance in Bend, Oregon during Nike's one and only ever event for their cycling athletes. Two weeks later Lance held a news conference to announce he had been Diagnosed with Testicular cancer.