Lancemania about to roll over foothills

Superstar Lance Armstrong a huge draw for Amgen Tour of California race Sunday
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Lancemania is about to engulf Placer County. The Amgen Tour of California rolls through the streets of Auburn, over the Foresthill Bridge and into the American River Canyon on Sunday. But while dozens of riders will be taking part, the buzz is expected to rise to a crescendo of excitement as Armstrong pedals into the picture. He’s an athlete who has transcended his sport – a Babe Ruth or a Mohammed Ali for a new generation. Auburn’s Brad Kearns competed against the teenage Armstrong as a world-class triathlete in the 1980s. More recently, he wrote “How Lance Does It,” a book that explains Armstrong’s formula for success. Kearns, owner of and race director of the upcoming “World’s Toughest Half- Triathlon, said that his book on Armstrong looked beyond the killer instinct and physical talents he first saw in a 16-year-old phenom from Austin, Texas. What revealed itself was Armstrong’s positive attitude. It was a key part of him that emerged for the wider audience beyond the cycling world when Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996. A month later, while fighting for his life, he was in a boardroom mapping out what would soon become the Lance Armstrong Foundation to help other cancer sufferers, Kearns said. That Armstrong attitude most impressed Kearns when the two were at a gathering of cancer survivors in Texas. “I was complaining about the weather and its effect on my allergies with a group of people and Lance,” Kearns said. “We were making small talk with Mr. Celebrity but he turned to me and said ‘Quit bitchin.’” Kearns said that he didn’t think much of it at the time but later that day, made the connection. “We had been in a room with cancer survivors and his message was ‘How dare you take that attitude and share it with the world,’” Kearns said. “He’s a champion because of his attitude – and he has an incredible impact on people he meets.” The community of Cool on the other side of the American River canyon from Auburn, is also welcoming Armstrong and the tour to town. Cool resident Trixie Bradley said she’s excited about the tour’s short visit and will be looking for a vantage point in stands set up in front of Northside School. An exercise physiologist, Bradley said the appeal for many is the chance to watch an amazing athlete in action. “He’s why most people are coming out,” Bradley said. “He has a physical ability that is very rare so watching someone work like that will be amazing.” Armstrong’s presence elevates the Amgen Tour, a race that will be bypassing Loomis on Sunday en route to Sacramento from Nevada City. But there’s hope in the foothills community below Auburn – where the race will be traveling through Old Town and Downtown in the early afternoon – that next year’s route could be shifted its way. Tate Abdon, co-owner and manager of Black Bear Outdoors in Loomis, said that an Amgen Tour course that would take in Auburn Folsom Road through Loomis was on the race radar before organizers decided on a route that takes a turn into the American River Canyon at Auburn along Highway 49 toward El Dorado County. “We can hope for next year,” Abdon said. “And it would be great if it came through the center of town.” Abdon said Armstrong’s presence in the tour for the second straight year gives the first leg from Nevada City to Sacramento a special sparkle. “To have the caliber of rider he represents come here gives a good context to the community we have here,” Abdon said. Abdon said he describes Armstrong to people as a “true athlete.” “He’s willing to put it all out there and do everything he can to consistently win – and overcome everything he’s overcome,” Abdon said. “He’s a good role model.”