Gruene Re-cap with Photos


While the history was there, it’s doubtful that anyone would have picked Gruene, Texas as the start of Lance Armstrong’s historic comeback to professional road racing. Back in 1996 it was a very different story as Lance, who admittedly “barely could ride a bike” due to cancer treatments, rode with legendary Eddy Merckx in a ceremonial Time Trial circuit. Then in 1997 he rode with teammate Kevin Livingston notching a 2nd place result.

Flash ahead 11 years later and Lance had teamed up with longtime friend John “College” Korioth to contest his first TT since July of 2005. Lance started off by winning the individual race Saturday and the 2-man contest with College on Sunday. But as always, the result is only part of the story, here’s a look at what it took for Team Armstrong to get the win this past weekend…

The morning started early for those in support of Lance’s solo effort. Man-of-all-things Dave Bolch (soigneur, mechanic, ranch manager, welder, and on and on) got all the gear together while I went out and picked up aero guru Steve Hed at the airport. While some things are always kept close, suffice to say they wanted to try some new things position-wise, as well as some new equipment. After all, early races like this are more about testing yourself and equipment than they are about victories.

Dave and Steve got to making the adjustments they wanted to try and Lance came over to check on their progress and discuss what his thoughts were in recent rides compared to back in the day. The joke of the day was that we planned to go “low profile” into Gruene, but by the time we had everyone organized realized we had four vehicles, a follow scooter, 12 folks including Lance’s kids and a video crew! So much for incognito… we made the 50 mile trek to just outside of Gruene proper to a scenic riverside start line. With everyone unloaded we got down to the business at hand: Lance went out to warm up, we got the lay of the land and start procedures down, and LA’s son Luke practiced skipping rocks in the river…

The weekend, weather-wise, couldn’t have been nicer for a Fall TT. With temps in the upper 70s and fall colors abundant, it was a truly scenic venue. Lance went and pre-rode the course (they had scouted it earlier as well) while we met with race directors Tom Sickman and Will Rotzler. Both guys have been running this race for a long time, and Tom was one of the first folks to get me into the sport back when he used to own B&J Bicycle Shop in San Antonio. Solid guys for sure.

With riders streaming out to test themselves on the 16 mile out and back course, Lance rolled in and got set up to spin on the trainer. By this time the crowd had found our camp and was a respectful 8-10 feet around him while he continued his warm up. While I helped with crowd control on one side, an older man came right up to him on the bike much to our surprise. As I came over to escort him to a safer position, he smiled and said, “No, no, it’s OK ?I am from Denmark!” No, no – it’s OK to be over there, not here, regardless of national origin.

As the crowd started to press in, Lance decided to go finish his warm up out on the road and we headed for the follow car. College and Steve Hed were on the chase scooter so Steve could get a firsthand look at Lance’s position and performance, director Tom drove the follow car with several of our crew and reporters along for the ride. Lance was last to head out late afternoon, and while he was clearly the fastest rider on the course, he looked a bit “blocked” to me, especially on the first 8 miles out. I’ve seen Lance’s riding style for many years, and the smooth locked-in style just wasn’t there. He seemed to be fighting for power rather than it just flowing. The power was still there (albeit well below his Tour performance standard, he noted after), but it just didn’t look like it felt right. Lance would go on to win the day with a time of 33’14” (46.5 kmh / 28.9 mph), but as soon as he came back he was in a huddle with Steve and Dave, discussing the day’s performance and bike set up.

On the way back home, with Blackberry phone calls and messages flying, it was decided for the next day to go back to basics and the riding set up from 2005. That meant plenty of work post-ride for Steve and Dave, and a 7am leave time tomorrow morning…

At least daylight savings time was in our favor, and the crew ?down to just two vehicles today, was in a much more relaxed state than yesterday. Of course the pressure was on today for College, after all, it’s not every day a 42 year old gets the opportunity to race a 2-man TT with a 7-time Tour de France champion, even if he is one of your best friends and you are the reigning Masters National Road Champ! But John looked in good spirits with plenty of good natured ribbing throughout the morning.

We rolled into downtown Gruene and set up camp in the Gristmill restaurant. Riders of all calibers were heading out onto the course, most taking it quite seriously while others took the opportunity to enjoy a sporty ride through the very scenic countryside. While Lance and College warmed up on the course, I went to scout out the venue and start times. LA and College would head out at 10:01am, and as I showed Lance a photo of the start times he saw that 2007 defending champs Pat McCarty (Garmin-Chipotle) and Phil Wikoff (Source Endurance) were starting three minutes ahead of them. “That’s the target!” he said enthusiastically. Now giving two solid TTers nearly a mile and a half head start and then running them down is not only a difficult thing to, but you have to AVERAGE 1.5 mph faster than them the entire way. Looked like a long hour for College was in the works!

With the race running spot on time we had just 13 minutes for some final adjustments to LA’s bike and while they lined up in the final spot we loaded up the chase car. I had the wheel while Bart Knaggs rode shotgun along with Steve, video crew, reporter and race director Will. The guys were off like a shot in the quick downhill start and it was immediately apparent that Lance was riding a lot better than yesterday. “The only problem is that Lance could burn out College,” Bart noted. That would take some good / honest communication between the two riders, or else College could blow up and Lance would have to wait (the final rider time is the one that’s scored). The guys looked very good together, and as to be expected Lance took most of the pulls but College did his share, too. With speeds going between 28-32 mph (and well over 40 mph on the mild descents) all was looking well, but while we knew that Lance had a ~29mph TT in him, could College hang on?

With Bart often hanging out the car yelling encouragement and banging on the door(!) it didn’t seem like they could go much faster. That is until Lance caught sight of a Garmin-Chipotle uniform on the horizon of a gradual ascent on Hwy 306. Spurred on by seeing their afore-mentioned 3-minute target, Lance and College worked even harder to catch and pass McCarty and Wikoff. The defending champs weren’t about to just get dropped and lose site, playing cat and mouse with Lance and College all the way to the line (while some in the car were concerned this chase effort may have cracked College). But in the end John did indeed hang on as they notched the second consecutive victory of the weekend, rolling in with a time of 56’37” and an average speed of 28.9 mph / 46.5 kmh.

“That was the hardest physical thing I have ever done in my life,” a weary College said afterwards. “I have been asking Lance to do this race with me for 12 years. And when he finally agreed I realized I wasn’t quite sure what I had gotten myself into. I remember a part in the race where I told Lance my heart rate hadn’t gone below 180 since the start, and he told me his had been up over 190. I literally yelled at him, so why are we going on so hard?!” And while College was a bit cross-eyed, Lance had the fire back in his eyes and was already comparing TT photos on Liz Kreutz’s cameras back in the hotel room.

We made our way into the historic Gruene Hall jammed with riders and fans waiting for Lance’s podium time. Will first presented Lance with his trophy from the day before, then he and College accepted their prize for winning the 2-man TT. Lance thanked the crowd and the race for their amazing support, and then told them he intended to be back the following year to defend their title, much to the crowd’s delight! As we made our way back out, Lance signing item after item on the fly, you could just feel the overwhelming positive energy.

And while we’ve celebrated many victories on the streets of Paris, today just off of I-35 it was a Whataburger drive through that went to the victors. Hopefully when we look back on a very successful 2009 season, we’ll be able to say that it started on the roads of Gruene, Texas? great people, a great event, and a solid step forward in Lance’s comeback to professional cycling.

Lance and company headed back to the house, LA spending the afternoon playing football and taking family photos with his kids and newest TT trophy. Dave and I dropped off Steve at the airport as he headed to the wind tunnel to prepare it for Lance and several other top riders in the days ahead. Afterwards we downloaded all the gear, glad for an early afternoon off and a successful weekend of racing. And me, I celebrated by breaking out my bike and going for a ride, it just seemed the right thing to do. Ciao for now….

Dave, Steve and Lance discuss the Trek TTX bike set up

College follows Lance on his warm up run Saturday

The scenic riverside of Gruene, TX

Lance’s kids cheer him on roadside

Steve and Lance discuss watts and drag counts on Sunday

The target has been noted

Team car

Lance leads College at 29+mph

Mission accomplished, McCarty and Wikoff are passed

Celebrating Whataburger style!


  1. Brian Dowd says:

    Great summary Chris! thanks!

    Awesome job Lance!

  2. rosiedrums says:

    hey mate…loving your updates. Keep em coming!!

  3. Bob Sega says:

    Good report Chris. I asked my Danish wife, Allis to read the part about the old Danish gentleman. She did , Laughed and said he was right, he’s not Papparazzi or harmful, he is Danish, he is butter.


  4. david svahn says:

    i competed against Lance in the ITT race at gruene on saturday…this was the second time i got to race against January i had the honor to race against him on a mountain bike in comfort texas..what a thrill it was to meet him and actually beat him on the dirt..of course he cramped and quit..but i did get the victory..ha ha.. make sure and thank him from a recretional racer for supporting the local texas races…i sure wish him luck in 2009…he sure looked ripped on his bike..i think if he races the Tour he will win.. no one can beat him if hes in Tour shape..No one..
    take care, david svahn

  5. Jay Daley says:

    After years of reading about Lance in Cycling magazines and newspapers,I was more impressed to read of his expolits written in such a light – hearted manner.Keep it up chris.

    Jay in Ireland

  6. Ty says:

    Good luck LA with your comeback to racing this coming year. Hope you do well in the Giro and the TDF if you do it, a race (Giro) I always hope you would do. Thanks for the great story CB of this past weekend at Gruene…

  7. Gabe says:

    I live less than a mile from Gruene and felt very fortunate to be visited by three great inspirations in the same weekend; all with a strange positive parallel. A) It was great to see Lance ride this past weekend, such a survivor and great athlete. B) One of my dear friends who was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about 1 week ago. She inspires me with her great attitude and I wish I can share her strength in what she faces. C) Finally, Gruene was blessed by another great rider of a different sort. We hosted and befriended David Murray. He is cycling America and just finished a 1600 mile leg from San Diego enjoy New Braunfels and Gruene. He’s now on his way to St. Augustine, Fl another 1500 miles!
    I’m feeling very fortunate to have been “visited” by 3 completely different people on 3 incredible journeys.
    Good luck Lance on your come back, let’s make it #8!

  8. Mark Purnell says:

    Incredible! After doing a tour in the Blue Angels, announcing countless races including Ironman, I have never announced a race such as I had the pleasure of doing on Saturday and Sunday.

    Lance (and crew), you are truly an inspiration and I wish you all continued success. Can’t wait to announce you next year after we get 8!

    Take care!

    Mark Purnell

  9. Evan Wilkinson says:

    Thanks Chris – Sure beats some of the tripe the world media call journalism!

  10. Andrew says:

    Congrats Lance and College! Let’s keep those victories rolling!

  11. Al says:

    Keep it up never give up , never give in You are my hero.. and just so that you know you help me get threw my canser.. keep it up man

  12. Jan (Holland) says:

    Great to see you riding!!

    I really looked forward to the results and pics! The second day (TTT) you look much more balanced on the bike.
    Must be the 2005 set up instead of sort of leipheimer set up isnt it?
    Thx again for coming back and your motivational attitude for so many people in many ways!!!

  13. Glenn says:

    Great recap & promising start! – looking forward to more and the increased spotlight on the global fight against cancer that comes with it!
    (I voted yellow today)

  14. Dan Williamson says:

    Great job Lance and great updates Chris. Everytime I read stories about Lance’s latest victory on the road to France in 09 I jump on my bike and go riding!

  15. caroline D says:

    Respect!Whatever the results, respect always…

  16. That?Ǭ¥s very cool! Lance my hero and the the styler no1 in the world 😉

  17. Vince Talavera says:

    Way to go Big Tex!

    Looking forward to seeing you at the Tour of California..

  18. Thanks, Chris, for the great insider look at the weekend. I really enjoyed the writing as well. I’m unemployed and have been going through a really rough time for that and other reasons. Nothing got me excited for months, but then when the rumor of a comeback leaked, there was a spark. I’m inspired to make my own life comeback that will include beating depression, losing a couple of hundred pounds, recovering from Post Concussion Syndrome, & getting back in the work force. I’ve been reading every Lance story in Google News, even the translated ones. Yesterday I started a blog where I’m posting links to Lance info, and to articles like this one, and summing up the positive aspects of the news for anyone who might happen by. I don’t actually have a reader yet, but I wanted to mention it here as a kind of disclosure that it exists. Keep up the great work, with the foundation and the comeback. I can’t wait to see Lance in the maglia rose. Cheers.

  19. Les says:

    Seeing Lance up close on Saturday, prior to his start in the individual TT was an incredible experience. Can’t wait ’til next year to see him up close again. Hope he can overcome the negativity of the TDF directors and wins Number Eight. Super-Thanx for a great article.

  20. eduardo a. arrazate fernandez says:

    por favor ponganlo en espa?ɬ±ol nos interesa saber con el regreso de armstrong a la competicion y de sus actividades extras

  21. Neil Armitage says:

    Great news lance on the TT win….SO excited to see you back on the bike. I have already booked a 3day trip to cycle the Ventoux then watch you win the tour later the same day on that mountain…cannot wait!!!!
    By the way, i did my own tour de france this year. 1400KM from Calais to Cannes in 8 days including the Ventoux which i climbed in 2hrs. Not quite up to your standards but i’m very proud all the same!! Raised ?Ǭ£16000 British pounds for Hospice Care while doing it. Will never forget it. all the best with the Cancer awareness fight. Thanks for being an inspiration to millions!

  22. A. Specia says:

    I was racing in the ITT on Saturday and I must express what a thrill and emotional rush it was to have Lance go by me during his warmup. Lance truely inspires and excites the U.S. cycling community and he has been a leader in cancer survivor inspiration and fundraising.
    God gave Lance amazing talent and ability.

  23. T. Joseph says:

    Wonderfully inspirational!

    Take that all of you jealous creeps that means you lepoop~

    Your legacy and what will memorialize your continued triumphs is keeping the ankle biters at bay. Please bring independent agencies to your testing, you can only imagine at which lengths Lemond will go to see you disgraced.

    I would like nothing more to be apart of your team and help your publicity team insure your victory is not only in the Peloton’ but in the pages of history!

    A combined assault must preempt any attack made by Lemond this must be a continued effort to insure your valor and achievements are not muddied by his minions.

    I can spin a top on top of a top and you can’t top that.

    It would honor me to be apart of your greater Victory in life and insure no one is there to undermine your legacy!

    Lance, Please review my website and contact me you needn’t publish this I just didn’t know of any other way to contact you.

    by the by
    I have worn the Livestrong motto because it is a creed I support and believe in.

  24. marcus says:

    Vai l?ɬ° Lance estamos todos com vc aqui no Brasil

  25. Denis says:

    Well done Lance,a good start of the season.On Sunday I was myself scouting the etape on the way to the Ventoux,I always think a lot about you when I am around there and would like to see you win this stage in 2009. As a french person I still don’t understand why my fellow citizen are so chauvinistic against you!!
    Keep on the great work

  26. Heather says:

    I was reading this piece before I knew who wrote it. After the first paragraph I knew it was Chris. What a great style of writing. It makes the reader feel as if they were there.
    Keep em coming Chris, they are truly enjoyed.
    Lance truly inspires people to get up, get going, and be their best. I’m getting on my bike!

  27. you continue to inspire many people and i’ll always be one of them. As always train smart and hard and let us know if you ever visit Alberta,Canada,

    all the best!


  28. Mark Stockert says:

    Thanks for sharing! I was in Gruene Sunday for the TTs and really enjoyed watching Lance and College at the start, finish and Gruene Hall awards.

  29. Richard Ashton says:

    Thanks for the excellent report. Lance was my inspiration after I had heart bypass surgery in 2003, I’m back on the bike and so pleased that Lance is coming back. He should ignore all the whingers and just show them what it’s about – as I am sure he will. Best wishes for the TDF from the UK

  30. Kelly Bass says:

    I love me some Whataburger!

  31. John Kallas says:

    November 19th, 2008 at 1:41 pm Lance, I’m an avid mountain biker, however I’m a big fan. It’s awesome to see your getting back in the game. Racing has become dull and tainted without your presence. Good Luck and Best wishes. JK from Incline Village.

  32. Joni Watson says:

    3 things I absolutely love about this:

    1. Just the thought of Lance returning and training and pushing his body as a survivor – an example to all. That rocks.

    2. Seeing his kids cheer him on during the race…excellent pic, Mr./Ms. Photo guru.

    3. Whataburger – nothing like it

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