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Million Dollar Lance?
By Podofdonny
Date: 6/3/2003
Million Dollar Lance?

Million Dollar Lance?

Threshold Sports announced today it will award the largest cash prize in American cycling, the $1 Million PCT Triple Crown. Story here.

Ten years ago a young Lance Armstrong stunned the world by winning the famous prize.

So did Lance really win a million dollars?

The Daily Peloton looks back on the day the Texan won the 1$ million Thrift Drug Triple Crown with this press release* on that fateful day.


1$ Million Thrift Drug Triple Crown

Lance Armstrong, the all-America bike rider, won $1 million today. More or less.

With a brash, in-your-face performance, the 21-year-old Texan, a professional only nine months, won the United States' richest one-day bicycle race, the $110,000 CoreStates United States professional championship.

Courtesy of Super Lance Fansite.


The victory gave him a sweep of the Thrift Drug series of three races, which started with the Thrift Drug Classics May 23 in Pittsburgh and continued with the K-Mart Class stage race May 25-30 in West Virginia.

Thrift Drug offered a $1 million bonus to anyone who won all three races and it bought insurance for the prize money from Lloyd's of London. But the biggest payoff in the history of this sport wasn't exactly $1 million in small, unmarked bills.

Armstrong (or, more accurately, his Motorola team) could have taken $50,000 a year for 20 years, but will choose the alternative bonus, an immediate one-time payment of $600,000.

Following a common practice in professional cycling, Motorola pools its prize money. At year's end, the pool is shared by Motorola's 18 riders (eight raced here), with lesser shares to the team's two mechanics and five masseurs. So when the payoffs are made, Armstrong will probably emerge with $30,000 for this race.

Courtesy of L'Equipe.


Not bad for a tough day's work. The race covered 156 miles, the longest in the United States, and halfway through the course, the Manayunk Wall, a half-mile climb up an 11 percent grade, had broken many riders in the past. The day was cool, which the riders liked, and windy, which they didn't.

Before the race, Armstrong said he did not expect to win. "But I want to win," he added.

His team wanted him to win, too, so much so that it abandoned the sport's team-first philosophy and geared all efforts toward helping him win. He rode much of the race in the slipstream of teammates. They controlled the field, waiting for a big move.

With 41 miles remaining, it came. Armstrong and six others broke away and led by as much as 2 minutes 43 seconds. Then, with 17 miles to go, Armstrong made one more move that decided the race.

The breakaway pack of six was struggling up the Manayunk Wall for the final time. There were seven miles to the start/finish line plus three 3.3 mile loops.

"I knew I had to go then," Armstrong said. "I had to gut out the headwind up the hill because I knew I would have a tail wind all the way into town."

So, as the wall got steep, Armstrong took off. No one followed, and he pulled away.

"I think very few riders could have stayed with Lance today," said Bart Bowen of Ruidoso, NM, last year's winner and 47th today. "And none of them were in that break."

With 100 yards remaining and no one else in sight, Armstrong started celebrating. He zipped his jersey shut. He straightened his helmet and blue reflecting sunglasses. He pumped his arms. He blew a kiss to the frenzied crowd. He punched a fist in the air. He crossed the finish line, turned around, found his mother, and squeezed her.

His mother, Linda Walling, was relieved.

"I haven't slept in two nights," she said. "It's not the money, it's the recognition cycling will get now in the United States."

Armstrong won by 1:30, or almost three-quarters of a mile. Gianluca Pierobon of Italy finished second and Graeme Miller of new Zealand was third. Of the 125 starters, 73 finished. Armstrong's time was 6:19:39, an average of 24.65 miles an hour.

Jim Ochowicz, Motorola's team manager, said he would decide June 16 whether Armstrong would ride the world's leading race, the July 4-26 Tour de France. Some people think he is too young for such a grind. Armstrong is not among them.


"I'm not thinking about that," he said. "For now, I'm ecstatic. It's a great day for US cycling. This million-dollar prize is going to do a lot for this sport."


Well, as Tour fans will know, Armstrong did ride the 1993 stage and won stage 8 from Chalons-sur-Marne to Verdun. But that is another story...

Related Story: When Lance was a Domestique

*Editor's Note: This report is from our files, and the original author is unknown. The author may give or refuse permission for use of this material by contacting us at the email address at the bottom of the page.

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