He fought like that on the climb up Luz-Ardiden to victory in the Pyrenees, after crashing last week. The thing you can't know about Lance on a climb, until you've seen him do it in person, is that the effort is so severe that his eyes become completely bloodshot from burst capillaries.
"Why do you do it?" I asked him once. "What's the pleasure in riding a bike up a mountain for six hours?"
"I don't understand the question," he said.
"Well, there has to be some pleasure in it," I said. "I mean, your back hurts, your neck hurts, your butt hurts. What's the payoff?"
"I still don't understand the question."
I went away baffled -- and convinced that unless I could get him to talk to me on the subject, I'd never understand him. After a couple of days of thought, I realized I'd been asking the entirely wrong question.
"You don't do it for the pleasure," I said. "You do it for the pain."
"That's exactly right," he said.
One minute, after nearly a month of suffering, he decided who won this Tour. Lance's ride into the history books was an essay in overcoming a succession of miseries and setbacks. He says he knew it was going to be a hard race when, the day before it began, a bird soiled the shoulder of his jersey. He got a stomach virus from his small son. He developed tendinitis in his hip. He rode a climb called the Galibier with his back brake dragging against the wheel because of a mechanical problem. He crashed twice. He got back up and rode through it all, while his competitors crashed and faded around him. What it might have amounted to in the end is that Lance felt, as race announcer Phil Liggett said, "The magnetism of a finish line."