Tour de France champion and Livestrong founder and chairman Lance Armstrong receives a warm greeting from Carroll residents during a brief stop at Graham Park this morning. Daily Times Herald photo by Jeff Storjohann
Tour de France champion and Livestrong founder and chairman Lance Armstrong receives a warm greeting from Carroll residents during a brief stop at Graham Park this morning. Daily Times Herald photo by Jeff Storjohann
Tuesday, July 26, 2011

International cycling icon Lance Armstrong had a quick quip for fellow  RAGBRAIers this morning in Carroll.

“How fast are we riding?” joked the seven-time Tour de France winner in Graham Park.

Armstrong, one the nation’s leading advocates for cancer research, prevention and treatment, arrived in Carroll just after 8:30 a.m., having flown from France to Ames the day before. He stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in Ames Monday night before making the drive to Carroll to join RAGBRAI for today’s route to Boone.

Armstrong signed autographs and posed for photos with cyclists riding with Livestrong, Armstrong’s fitness-minded cancer-fighting foundation. He also met with Mayor Jim Pedelty, Carroll Area Development Corp. executive director Jim Gossett and some of the Carroll RABGRAI co-chairs.

“This is an interesting festival of bikes, to have thousands and thousands of people come from all over the world to ride for a week-long is something that’s not necessarily easy,” Armstrong said in an interview with the Daily Times Herald and Carroll Broadcasting. “You get some rolling hills. You get heat. You get wind, people camping out. It’s a tough experience. You have to really want to do it.”

Armstrong said he is impressed with the friendliness of Iowans.

“It’s something you’d feel even if you weren’t here for RAGBRAI,” Armstrong said. “You feel that people are very normal people. It’s good for us to be here. It’s obviously great for Livestrong to have a presence here for years and years.”

Armstrong said he selected Carroll to start his one day of RAGBRAI 2011 because of travel timing.

“It’s good to be back,” Armstrong said. “Fortunately I got a good night’s sleep, too. I was worried about that.”

When asked what kind of a pace he planned to maintain on the 70.9-mile ride to Boone, and whether he had his sights set on shivering past fellow cyclists today, Armstrong joked, “Yeah, I am absolutely going to try and destroy all these people who came far and wide to try and raise money for my foundation. I’m just going to destroy these people. No, we’re going to take it easy.”

In terms of cancer research, Armstrong, who is a survivor of advanced testicular cancer that spread to his lungs and brain, said “steady progress” is being made.

“We need to continue to focus and refocus our efforts,” Armstrong said. “We’re not doing that. At the federal level, in this current economic climate and budget climate, we lose  money in these times. We lose money at the National Institutes of Health. We lose money at the National Cancer Institute. That’s a problem.”

That considered, Armstrong said people can make wise choices with fitness and behaviors to reduce chances of cancer.

“Friends and family are obviously key and important,” Armstrong said. “The support structure really from day one is something that I really leaned on, and I think most people do.”

Livestrong provides great support as well. The 150 riders as part of this year’s Team Livestrong signed up for the experience at TeamLivestrong.com, first come, first serve. Most cyclists with the team have some connection to cancer, either as survivors or as family members of people who’ve dealt with the disease, said Team Livestrong manager Colleen Legge of Austin, Texas.

One of Iowa’s leading cancer researchers was present at Graham Park with Armstrong today as well.

Dr. George Weiner, president of the Iowa Cancer Consortium and Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa, said there is much reason to be encouraged.

“We are making progress faster than ever before,” Weiner said in an interview. “What we’re beginning to do is recognize the molecular causes of cancer and to target them specifically.”

Weiner said someone’s chances of contracting cancer splits on thirds — genetics, behavior and “just plain luck.”

“The piece of that that we can control is the behavior piece,” Weiner said.