In Austin, Some Complain of 'Lance Fatigue'

In his hometown of Austin, Texas, Lance Armstrong's fans are celebrating his seventh and final Tour de France victory. Armstrong and Austin are a perfect fit for each other. Still, with the intensity of Armstrong coverage, a few in Austin have begun suffering from Lance overload.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

In Austin, Texas, over the weekend, hometown fans of Lance Armstrong watched on TV as he won his seventh and final Tour de France bicycle race. As NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports, Armstrong and Austin, Texas, are perfect for each other. Still, with the intensity of coverage surrounding the Tour, maybe a few Austinites are suffering Lance overload.

Ms. MARLA WILEN: And I need your license.

Unidentified Man: Oh, you need it? There you go.

WADE GOODWYN reporting:

It's 5:30 PM and 98 degrees under partly cloudy skies, as a platoon of Austin bicycle riders get ready to begin their time trial.

Unidentified Man: You just go up there and roll across the mats and fly.

Ms. WILEN: So you can just go when you want.

Unidentified Man: This is really cool.

Ms. WILEN: Thank you.

Unidentified Man: This is extremely cool.

Ms. WILEN: Yeah.

Unidentified Man: This is what's so awesome about Austin.

GOODWYN: Thirty-year-old Marla Wilen has on her Livestrong bracelet, a tight yellow riding outfit and a $4,000 bike that looks like she's been putting in some serious hours on the road. There is no doubt who and what has caused all this.

Ms. WILEN: Oh, we are so obsessed with that. Every day when I get to work, the first thing that I do is log on to the live feed and, I mean, with everybody around town saying, `Did you see? Did you see? Oh, my gosh.' The first thing I do when I get home at night is rewind the DVR and sit down and have dinner.

GOODWYN: Everywhere in Austin there are homemade yellow banners that say, `Vive, Lance.' It's like winning seven Super Bowls in a row, only you're beating the entire world's best athletes. After the Tour, the city throws big celebrations for Armstrong and itself.

(Soundbite of people cheering)

GOODWYN: Parades with 10,000 bicycle riders ages two to 80 pedaling alongside their hero down Congress Avenue. Adam Reiser owns the bicycle shop next to Chuy's, one of Armstrong's favorite Austin restaurants. Reiser says road racing in Austin has been riding a Lance-generated wave for the last seven years.

Mr. ADAM REISER: You know, Lance will always be the person that most people can relate to. When someone comes in the door and we're talking bikes, be it how you produce a lot of watts or what style of bike to ride, you can always use something along the lines of, `This is what Lance rides.'

(Soundbite of music)

GOODWYN: There is only one other who holds such a place in the city's collective heart, and that is Stevie Ray Vaughn. The brilliant blues and rock guitarist was killed in a helicopter crash at the height of his career. And his statue down by the river is regularly covered in flowers.

(Soundbite of music)

GOODWYN: No need for statues of Lance yet, but they have built a shrine for him at the local 24 Hour Fitness centers in Austin.

Mr. LANCE ARMSTRONG: Hey, everyone, it's Lance here. Did you know that working out gets your blood moving, your metabolism going and increases the odds that you make healthy choices when you're not at the gym? Keep up the good work.

GOODWYN: Giant yellow Livestrong bracelets hang over the front desk now, murals of Armstrong, banners of Armstrong in front of the Eiffel Tower, his bike surmounted in glass. At one end of the gym is the `wall of Lance.'

Mr. JAY LUNA: It's basically a wall of fame and it starts from--there's several categories. There's In the Beginning. Then it goes to the Detour, which is what he had to come out of in his life. There's a Born-Again Cyclist, and then in the end it's The Road Ahead, which is where he's at now in his life.

GOODWYN: Jay Luna is the club's manager. The gym is nice and the displays are striking, but it was all too much for member Neal Pollack.

Mr. NEAL POLLACK: Lance Armstrong started talking and then pictures of Lance started showing up everywhere and then we started to see little slogans, then Lance Armstrong memorabilia started showing up. So now wherever you go in the gym, Lance is always there reminding you to get motivated to exercise.

GOODWYN: Pollack is a rider and did a piece about the transformation of his gym in the online magazine Slate. Although his feelings are outside the mainstream, Pollack says he knows he's not alone.

Today Lance Armstrong begins a well-earned vacation with his friends and family in the south of France. Eventually, he will come home to central Texas to begin a very different life. When he does, Austin will have one last great party to celebrate the man who beat death, then showed the world what endurance really meant.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News.

CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. Stay with us on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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