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Oprah: Can you describe what it feels like to come down a mountain, sailing with the wind?

Lance: It's so fast. I think it surprises people that we're speeding at around 75 miles per hour on tires that are less than an inch wide. If you hit a rock, you're like, "Oh, God." I've been lucky. Never broke a bone other than my collarbone and a vertebra.

Oprah: Can you even enjoy the view?

Lance: Depends where I am. But I still cherish riding in beautiful places. My heaven on a bike hasn't changed: South of France, the Alps. I like riding on hills, even though it's harder. For me, two hours riding flat is torture. I like to climb.

Oprah: Is that a metaphor for how you live?

Lance: I don't know. I'm not a very deep person. I'm more black-and-white. I do like it when others don't have any great expectations for me. After a surgery when I'd had two lesions removed from my head, I was asked, "How are you doing?" I said, "Great!" How could that be? Because no one expected me to make it.

Oprah: I think you were born with the thing that makes you stick, Lance. No one can teach you that. You come with your own nature, and then your environment nurtures whatever that is. You want to go into the pain, into the climb. That's who you are.

Lance: That's true.

Oprah: Is it exciting to win by a narrow margin?

Lance: I'd rather win by five minutes. In 2003 when I had some bad luck and got sick along the way, it was no fun for anybody. Not the riders, not the staff, not the fans. I was miserable. I was afraid I was going to lose.

Oprah: Doesn't thinking about losing slow you down?

Lance: Yes. I kept having one bad day after another, and every night, I went to bed absolutely certain that I was going to feel better the next day. I'd think: "I want this; my team deserves it." But sure enough, I didn't feel better. Until one day, I did. During one of the final climbs, I was a minute ahead. If I hadn't gotten that lead, I would have had only a 15-second head start into the last part of the race.

Oprah: Who needs that? Not even you!

Lance: When there's a five-minute margin, even if you fall or miss a turn, you win. Five minutes is almost three miles. But if I lose and I know that I was prepared, that I was fit, I can take that.

Oprah: Don't you hate to lose?

Lance: Yes, but if you get beat but you didn't make any mistakes and your preparation was perfect, then you realize that someone else was just better. I think I can live with that.

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