Two-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong has fractured his vertebrae in an accident, his Web site announced today, casting doubts over whether he will be fit for the Olympics.
Eight days ago, the American collided head-on with a car while training with two teammates in southern France. X-rays at first cleared the cyclist of injury, but he said he was “banged up” and later complained of neck pains. Armstrong also said he was unable to turn his head.
Scans at a hospital this week confirmed a vertebrae between his neck and shoulder blades was fractured.
Armstrong has pulled out of two pre-Olympic races but intends to contest the Grand Prix des Nations time trial in France on September 16, before making a final decision about the Sydney Games, which would be his third Olympics.
The 28-year-old Texan, twice winner of the Tour de France since beating testicular cancer, is still among the favorites for the Olympic individual time trial on September 30. He also was slated to compete in the road race.
Disappointing Past Olympics
In 1992, Armstrong was a virtual unknown when he finished 14th in the individual road race at the Barcelona Olympics. A year later he stunned his rivals by becoming world champion in Oslo.
Americans rejoiced in having a favorite in the 1996 Atlanta Games but none of those watching realized Armstrong was already suffering from cancer that would come close to killing him.
“In 1996, two months before I was diagnosed, the illness was raging. It’s not that I felt bad but I didn’t compete well,” said Armstrong, who finished a disappointing 12th in the road race and sixth in the time trial before turning his attention to fighting the cancer, which spread to his lungs and brain.
After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, he returned to competition in 1998, finishing fourth in both the road race and the time trial at the world championships, winning the Tour of Luxembourg and placing fourth in the Spanish and Dutch tours.
He signaled his full return to health by winning the 1999 Tour de France and then repeated the victory this year.
“It’s great to be back as a cured person,” he said after July’s second victory.
Eyes the Time Trial
Armstrong, who won four of the individual time trials in the Tour last year and one this time, said he would focus on his specialty in Sydney but planned also to enter the 220-kilometer (136-mile) road race in a bid to help compatriot George Hincapie.
“I’m going to concentrate on training for the time trial,” he said recently. “It’s not the same preparation at all. The Olympic road race is a lottery. It will be much smarter for me to concentrate my training on the time trial, which I think I have a good chance of winning.”
If he competes in Sydney, Armstrong will be one of the five-man U.S. team in the road event.