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Oprah: When did you decide you were going to race?

Lance: A year later. Even then, I was a little skeptical. Part of me was like, "Are you sure you can? Why don't you go out and live a little, have some fun?" But I knew that if I took off for two years, I'd miss valuable time as a cyclist. I'm 33 now, and I'm going to be done soon. I've got the rest of my life to have fun.

Oprah: Did you ever doubt you could make a comeback?

Lance: My first race was in February [1998], then another in March. I put a lot of pressure on myself to win. When that didn't happen, I quit and came home. My coach said, "You've got to try again." So I went to a cabin in Boone, North Carolina, for eight or nine days. That's when I fell back in love with my bike. I decided to race again, and I made myself one promise: I would finish every race I started. My first race after that was the Tour of Luxembourg. I won it.

Oprah: That's extraordinary. Your only ambition was to finish?

Lance: Just to finish.

Oprah: One of my favorite quotes of yours is "Pain is temporary, but quitting is forever."

Lance: In the very first professional race of my career, I came in last. I was half an hour behind the pack, but I refused to quit. That's my mom's whole thing. From the moment my mother discovered she was pregnant with me, she said, "I'm not quitting. Call it V1." V1 is the maximum speed a plane can travel before it has to leave the ground. After that, it has to take off because it's going too fast to stop without crashing.

Oprah: Got it. How did you decide to go for the Tour de France?

Lance: After I won the Tour of Luxembourg, I was asked to do the Tour de France—but I decided on the Tour of Spain instead. Before cancer, the best I'd ever placed in the Tour de France was 36th. But when I came in fourth in the Tour of Spain, I thought, "Wow, maybe I'll give the Tour de France a crack next year."

Oprah: Tell me about your tolerance for pain—especially for all those who can't even stand being uncomfortable through a little exercise. How do you ride through the pain?

Lance: For me, pain is about the time of the year. In January training camp when I'm not in good shape, I suffer. That's an ugly pain. As I start to get fitter and leaner, I get more comfortable. Then the pain becomes really sweet. I crave it. You can be right at your threshold, your limit. For everything to click, my weight and diet have to be right, and I can't have any negative elements in my life. Cyclists should live like monks: eat, sleep, ride. My life's not like that now, but it used to be.

Oprah: You have to deal with the stuff of being Lance Armstrong—people, demands, appearances. But when you're in your best training mode...

Lance: It's eat, ride, massage, nap, eat, sleep.

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