While hundreds of Iowans look forward to seeing Lance Armstrong ride next week’s RAGBRAI, an Iowa City woman has already gone cross-country with the bicycling legend. Colleen Chapleau, associate director of the Iowa Marrow Donor Program based at the University of Iowa, was on a team of 20 endurance bikers who rode with Armstrong on the 2004 Tour of Hope.
Capleau says they rode from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. in eight days and she had many chances to talk with the seven-time Tour de France winner. Chapleau says “Let’s just say that I had short questions to ask Lance and he gave very relaxed long answers. He’s very comfortable on the bike riding fast and I was working very hard but he was so motivating to all of us.”
Chapleau was chosen from among 12-hundred applicants to be among the 20-member relay team. The tour was intended to raise awareness about the important role of cancer research. During the coast-to-coast ride, she says she was able to have several chats with Armstrong and once asked him how he was able to ride so fast for so long.
Chapleau says Armstrong’s answer was “When most people’s brains feel pain, that’s their signal to stop, but when I feel pain, that’s my signal to go. I actually invite the pain to come take the bike ride right along with me.” She says they were riding up the Rocky Mountains that night, a very challenging ride, and with Lance’s guidance and his words, “we flew up those mountains.”
Chapleau says she’s planning to see Armstrong when he stops in Iowa City next week.
She says “He’s quite a character, very funny, very personable. We came through Iowa on the Tour of Hope in 2004 and he was impressed with people who came out and lined the streets. I know he’s looking forward to coming back to Iowa and his goal is certainly to talk with people and to inspire them to join him in the fight against cancer.”
RAGBRAI opens on Sunday and Armstrong is expected to ride the July 27th leg from Newton to Marengo, attending events the next day in Iowa City, including a U.S. Senate field hearing chaired by Tom Harkin on cancer research. Armstrong’s asked that supporters wear yellow on the 27th to raise cancer awareness.