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Operation Marathon Man: Armstrong's Assault on New York

Tim Maloney, European Editor

As 2004 Olympic Marathon Champion and occasional cyclist Stefano Baldini of Italy (who rides a Colnago C50) prepares for what may be his last chance at a Big Apple win, seven time Tour De France winner and neophyte marathoner is looking to finish Sunday's New York Marathon in under three hours or "within one hour of the winner" like favorites Paul Tergat and Baldini, whichever comes first for the 35-year-old Texan. Armstrong will wear a special race number, 1002, to commemorate his diagnosis with testicular cancer, now over a decade ago as well as special race kit from Nike from his 10/2 line. And Nike has organized some very special "rabbits" for the Lance-man, as he will be escorted and encouraged by former NY Marathon winner Alberto Salazar for the first 16km, then by Joan Benoit Samuelson and finally with Hicham El Gerrouj over the last 10k.

At a tumultuous press conference at New York's Tavern On The Green, Armstrong finally met nine-time New York City Marathon winner Grete Waitz of Norway. Diagnosed with cancer in April 2005, Waitz, was inspired in her fight with cancer after reading Armstrong’s “It’s Not About the Bike”. The 53-year-old Norwegian hugged Armstrong and told him, “Thank you, Lance. Thank you for everything. You’ve done so much for me.” After the press conference, Armstrong told La Gazetta dell Sport's managing editor Pier Bergonzi "My coach Chris Carmichael gave me some tips, but mostly I've approached (the NY Marathon) like a game, without stress, without any obsession. In spring and summer, I've been doing a lot of different sports as always; kayaking, biking, golf, swimming, running, gym...that's what I've been doing for at least 25 years of my life."

Armstrong talked about his lead-up to the NY Marathon, saying "this summer, I did a lot of swimming and rode my bike a lot, but in September, I increased my running, at least an hour a day and I was listening to Linkin Park on my iPod. But I never ran more than 25km at one time. For one hour, I can run at 4 minutes a kilometer pace, but for a marathon, I just need to run at a 4:30 pace per kilometer. I'm curious to see how I do after the "wall" of 30km; it's farther than I've ever run."

Lance got some marathon tips from his ex-wife Kristen, who ran the NY Marathon herself last year and this year has run the Boston Marathon in 3 hours and 44 minutes and Chicago Marathon in 3 hours and 35 minutes". Kristen told Lance "she checked out my training and told me I'm ready to have a good run, but above all to have fun." After a run Friday in Central Park, Armstrong iced his shin splints and told the New York Time's Juliet Macur “Never in my career as a cyclist did I have to ice anything, so all this is new for me. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen in the race. I just hope to God that I can finish.”

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