December 31, 1999 12:00 PM

On July 25, when cyclist Lance Armstrong zoomed across the finish line of the 21-day, 2,289-mile Tour de France, it was one big win for man, one giant victory for humanity. Armstrong, 28, had not only beaten 6-to-l odds to place first in the grueling race; he had triumphed over testicular cancer, having been given just a 40 percent chance of survival three years earlier. Though the disease had spread to his brain, lungs and abdomen, “I was thankful that my odds weren’t 5 or 10 percent!” says Armstrong, who confronted his illness with the same determination that had already made him the top cyclist in the U.S. “What he held on to was this core belief that he was simply going to beat it, to win, to succeed,” says wife Kristin, 28. “When he’s in that mind-set, he just can’t be stopped.” Armstrong underwent surgery to remove the cancerous testicle and brain lesions, then endured four rounds of chemotherapy. In October 1997 his doctors pronounced him cancer-free. It was his next victory that brought home to the world at large what can be achieved through courage and perseverance. “He not only came back competitive, but even stronger than before,” says figure-skating champ Scott Hamilton, 41, who also overcame testicular cancer. Now Armstrong has a $400,000 book advance and endorsement deals worth some $7 million, and a made-for-TV movie is in the works. But more compelling to him is fatherhood: On Oct. 12, Kristin gave birth to their son Luke, conceived with sperm that Armstrong banked before starting treatment. The cyclist is also committed to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which he founded in 1997 to raise research funds and increase cancer awareness. “We’re trying to develop programs for survivors as well as patients,” he says. “People need guidance on how to pick up their lives.” For inspiration, they can look to Lance Armstrong.

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