From the triathlon he came, and to the triathlon he has returned. Long before Lance Armstrong was a seven-time Tour de France winner and the world's most famous cancer survivor, he was the Freddy Adu of triathlon. He won the first triathlon he entered, when he was 13; appeared on the cover of Triathlon magazine at 15; and by 16 he'd turned pro. Now Armstrong, at 40, is picking up where he left off in his swim-bike-run career.
Armstrong returned to competition in February at the Ironman 70.3 Panama (a 70.3 is a half-Ironman: a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run). Any idea that triathlon might be a mere retirement hobby for Armstrong was erased when he entered the run leg in the lead, only to settle for second behind Bevan Docherty, the 2008 Olympic triathlon bronze medalist. In Armstrong's next two triathlons—half-Ironmans in Galveston and St. Croix—he led after the bike leg, only to finish seventh and third, respectively. Then on May 20, outside Orlando, Armstrong demolished the field at the Ironman 70.3 Florida by over 10 minutes.
Just as characteristically, Armstrong has already generated controversy—unrelated to the ongoing U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation into allegations of performance-enhancing drug use in his cycling career. In his first triathlon Armstrong didn't shake Docherty's hand at the finish. (He later apologized.) In Armstrong's second, he was nipped at the line, then walked past his daughter as she screamed "Dad!" and tried to give him a medal.
After his Florida win, though, Armstrong, whose goal is to make the Ironman world championships in Hawaii in October, was all cheer. "I can't deny," he said, "[that I wanted] to come back to this sport and win some races."
ELIZABETH KREUTZ (ARMSTRONG)
TRY TRI AGAIN After three losing efforts, Armstrong dominated in Florida (above) and is now looking to October's world championships.