Armstrong's mom set for final Tour

Updated: July 1, 2005, 12:24 PM ET
Associated Press

Lance Armstrong's mother seems ready for the ride to end.

Sometime next month, Linda Armstrong Kelly plans to leave her home near the Texas-Oklahoma border and fly to France, hoping that her son can wrap up what would be his seventh straight Tour de France victory.

And although she'd love to see many more victory rides down the Champs-Elysees, Kelly believes her son will stick to his plan and leave competitive cycling when this race is over.

"Like I was there for my son when he was growing up, he wants to be there for his children,'' Kelly said Tuesday in a telephone interview from her home in Lake Kiowa, Texas. "There was an absolute decision.''

Armstrong announced his retirement in April, saying this will be his farewell Tour and that the time has come to devote more time to his three children. The Tour opens Saturday with an 11.8-mile time trial, then rolls along for about 2,230 more grueling miles before concluding July 24 in Paris.

Speaking with American reporters earlier this week, Armstrong -- the first rider to win cycling's premier race six times, all those triumphs coming after a victorious battle against testicular cancer -- said he's trying to keep a business-as-usual approach and not get overly sentimental in the days leading up to his final Tour.

His mother, however, readily acknowledges that a certain sense of nostalgia is setting in quickly.

"It's already started,'' Kelly said. "And I've really kind of been preparing myself for this both mentally and emotionally, yet as it gets closer it gets a little bit harder for me. Thinking of him riding in his last Tour, thinking about the last 20 years, it's emotional.''

Later this week, Kelly will be in New York for two days of promotional appearances for Outdoor Life Network, which broadcasts the Tour. She'll be opening a "Thank You Lance'' campaign, where fans can sign a giant card that'll be brought to cities including Philadelphia, Chicago and Armstrong's home of Austin, Texas.

After that, she'll return home and watch the first two weeks of race coverage on television, occasionally screaming for fans to get out of her son's way and perhaps dabbling in some yoga in an effort to stay calm.

"I'm just really, extremely, nervous for some reason,'' Kelly said. "I'm really going to have to work on my nerves at that point. I have a hard time watching.''

Kelly was 17 and living an impoverished life when she gave birth to Armstrong, and divorced his father soon after. Times were often very hard for the boy and his then-single mom _ who worked two jobs just to squeak by, which in part explains why they appreciate fame and fortune so much now.

In her recently released book, "No Mountain High Enough: Raising Lance, Raising Me,'' Kelly details the tough times _ stories that her son wasn't even fully aware of, she said, when he read the book.

"Lance has worked extremely hard to get where he is,'' Kelly said. "What you help your children do is establish work ethics, morals and values.

"It's not what you give them, but what you show them. I'm very proud of the way I've raised my son and what he's become.''


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press