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Lance Armstrong launches another fight against cancer

LANCE Armstrong believes his comeback to professional cycling might be measured by the number of lives he helps save, not the number of races he wins.

A day before he was due to end a three-year retirement from road racing in the Tour Down Under, the seven-time Tour de France winner was doing what he does so well: bringing hope to fellow cancer survivors.

Armstrong hosted a lunch at Royal Adelaide Hospital today to launch the Livestrong Global Cancer Campaign, an initiative of the Lance Armstrong Foundation which seeks to increase international awareness of cancer and its toll.

The racing bicycle Armstrong will ride from tomorrow in the Tour Down Under bears the numbers 1,274 and 27.5, something the 37-year-old Texan hopes will bring to public attention the many millions who have died from the disease.

"In the 1,274 days since I last rode competitively, approximately 27.5 million people have died from cancer around the world," Armstrong said.

"A single organization cannot tackle this epidemic alone. It will truly take a global effort to conquer cancer. Starting today we're building a global movement and we're going to win."

Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996 and almost died from the disease when it spread to his lungs and brain.

He refuses to say he has conquered the illness but will say "the cancer is in remission" and he speaks of "the obligation of the cured" to help those still struggling with the disease.

Armstrong said he is regularly approached by cancer sufferers or the relatives of sufferers not for the secret of his own survival, but to share their stories of the disease and its consequences. He said those encounters are his inspiration.

That is why, he said, the priority of his comeback is to spread the message of the fight against cancer more than to win his eighth Tour de France in June or his first Giro d'Italia.

"We've already raised a lot of money and we'll continue to raise a lot of money," Armstrong said. "But sometimes this disease doesn't need money, it needs attention, it needs exposure, it needs awareness.

"It needs people to step back and look at that bike and go 'gee, they're just two simple numbers but why haven't I heard about this? Why haven't I stood up and demanded change because of this?'

"That's not a financial issue."

Armstrong is willing to put at risk his sporting legacy to leave a larger human legacy from his cancer campaign.

"It comes up a lot. They bring up all the names. (Muhammad) Ali, (Michael) Jordan, everybody that's ever tried to come back, and legacy's the first thing they talk about," he said last week.

"I think this is different, in the sense that I'm coming back for a different reason, and I've been very open and honest and clear about it."

Armstrong said if he returned and got fifth place in the Tour de France, but created billions of dollars in funding and global awareness about cancer, he'd be satisfied.

"I think you start talking about a different kind of legacy then," he said. "And that's the legacy that starts to grow.

"From a sporting perspective, yes, there's a great risk (of failure). And it might happen. But from a human perspective and a cause perspective I think it's well, well worth the sporting risk."


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