There has been so much news lately about Lance Armstrong and the USADA going after him, that I thought I would put some thoughts about Lance down on paper. I don’t want to speak to all of the stories; Yahoo, ABC News, Cycling News and BBC but rather, what Lance has meant to me.
From 1996-1998 I was working for Specialized Bicycles out of Morgan Hill, CA. My title was Technical Rep. What that meant was that I drove my company-issued Subaru Outback to 33 States in my Midwest territory, working with 11 different outside sales reps to teach bicycle shops the technical features of our bicycles. A dream job for me. I had just retired as a Category 1 road racer and here this #1 brand gives me a car, an expense account and a pay check! Sure, I drove 75,000 miles each year and rarely slept in my home city of Lawrence, KS, but that was “normal” for my 10 year racing career. My address book was organized by states, not last names!
One day I received a call from my boss telling me that one of our program sponsors, Subaru, wanted to have the car at an event in Austin, TX called the Ride for the Roses. This was the first year of Lance Armstrong’s foundations charity bicycle ride and tour. Subaru was going to be a big sponsor of the event and wanted to show off my car as it was logo’d up and (aside from a few very small dents) was a show piece. There was a small catch about the event. Lance was a Trek guy, so only the car could be in the vendor area. I was not able to set up my normal space nor was I allowed to really be in the area. Here’s how it went down for the weekend: I parked my car for the weekend, the Subaru dealer gave me a loaner car and I just rode my bike and was a “participant” at the event.
Needless to say, I was very happy to be involved! I drove to Austin, checked into my room at the Marriot and drove to the vendor site to drop my car and get the loaner. I met all the folks from Subaru and a few from their advertising company,Timberland & McClain, who had made the trip from Dallas to be support for the booth. One was a very attractive young lady named Julie Kohler. She was a bit guarded at first and my jovial attitude was not as well received as I would have hoped. I needed to change that.
As a racer, I did see Lance at a few races….he was always near the front and I was near the back. We often saw each other while I was working some events for Specialized and though he never knew my name, he always recognized me as someone he knew. At the VIP happy hour which preceded the $1000 a plate dinner that I was invited to via Subaru, Lance walked by our group, looked at me and said “What are you doing here man? Thanks for coming out.” Maybe he was thinking that I was a big shot from Specialized …I just let that roll and he was never the wiser! I was just there to impress a girl and his comment sure did start to change my cool factor. By the end of the weekend we were on good speaking terms. I left the event with her phone number and we began a long distance courtship.
Months later I flew her to Park City, UT for a big national mountain bike race that I had to work. (Yes, I bought her her own hotel room!) One evening while walking after dinner we bumped into Lance and his wife and chatted for a bit. He was there to participate in the race, as his Trek contract wanted him at as many events as they could get him to here in the States. It was just so surreal to meet this beautiful girl at a Lance Armstrong event and months later, see him again as our relationship was getting stronger each day.
I am happy to say, that Julie Kohler is now Julie K Davis. Thirteen years ago – with a horribly done proposal by me – she mustered the words, I do! If not for Lance Armstrong, his cancer and return to the sport I may not have met my wonderful wife – I am thankful each and every day!