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A Tale of Two Heroes
By Jim Joyce
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It's a story of incredible joy and unrivaled triumph. It's a story of bitter sadness and unspeakable tragedy. Two men. Two cyclists. One professional, one amateur. Both larger than life. But, in the end, both mortal, both only men. And both my heroes.
Lance... Not so long ago, I sat in a lawn chair along a street in Wheeling, West Virginia and was treated to a live performance by a young Texan in the circuit race stage of the gone-but-not-forgotten Kmart Classic. A few years later, Lance Armstrong was the premiere American road racer, one of the best in the world. Not yet Greg Lemond, but by all indications, the potential was there. With a little more time, more experience, a few more accolades, he was on his way.
But life is never that simple. In the spin of a wheel, racing--his life's calling--became smaller than small potatoes. Suddenly the race was life itself. He had testicular cancer and no one was even certain he would live, let alone stand again on a podium.
Fast forward to Summer 1999. The young American was back. Great to see him on the US Postal Team, a heroic guy for certain just to be there. But nobody expected much.
Wrong again. Not only did he come back, but he decisively kicked butt on the all of those lean, emaciated Europeans who poked fun at his American build and thought they owned the Tour. An amazing comeback, one for the ages. The only one happier with his victory was Lance himself. Accepting his honor, he choked up, and we followed suit.
Next, it was a succession of media and talk show appearances. A meeting with the President. We smiled, we got goosebumps, we loved it! And we savored the positive spotlight cast once again on the sport of professional cycling.
Thank you, Lance. What a victory. And we can't wait to follow the rest of your career.
John... He was born with a proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. He was just 25 days older than me. I saw as many pictures of him growing up as I saw of myself. We knew everything about this guy, short of knowing him personally. Has anyone in the modern history of instant photos, press and video lived under more scrutiny, more intrusive a microscope? With all the money, all the fame, all the hopes--still, by all accounts, he was a great guy, at ease in the world. Yes, he was as comfortable hanging out with the common man at a Yankees game as with royalty and corporate giants.
And he was a bicycle commuter. And a recreational cyclist. After his death, sprinkled among the flood of film clips and photos, there was John Kennedy, our American prince, cycling to work in his business suit, protective glasses and bike helmet. Regardless of the debate on whether or not he lived too recklessly, he was a safe, practicing bike commuter who logged plenty of urban miles without trouble.
My favorite John Kennedy story (the one most significant to this article) took place just one day before his death. He had an important business lunch date with an individual in the middle of Manhattan. Recounting the story, this business associate told about getting there before John and then watching for his arrival through the restaurant window. John was running a bit late and the client expected to see him step out of a limousine or, as John preferred, an ordinary New York cab.
To his client's surprise, he arrived not in a limousine or even a cab, but on his bicycle. He dusted off his suit, locked up his bike, then joined his associate for a meeting about his labor of love, George Magazine, the largest selling political magazine ever.
That's what makes John Kennedy a bicycling hero.
Thanks, again, Lance and John. Lance, may you ride to victory for many years to come. John, may the memory of your simplicity and love of the greatest transportation ever invented--the bicycle--live on forever.
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