Lance Armstrong is no stranger to racing in the dirt. The seven-time Tour de France champion has raced in support (yes, support) of former Trek-VW pro Travis Brown, and is known to compete in local Texas mountain and cyclo-cross races throughout his career. As BikeRadar reported last week, Armstrong is training in Aspen, Colorado for the August 9 Leadville 100. Former cross country pro David Wiens is the defending champion, having beaten Floyd Landis by two minutes in 2007.
Armstrong, a dedicated marathon runner and new bike shop owner, has always taken a more conservative approach to his equipment, but the nearly 37-year-old cancer cure advocate realizes that light makes right, especially when Trek is paring down its full suspension offerings of late.
So even though Armstrong is a lifetime Trek ambassador, he was testing a Fisher Superfly 29er carbon hardtail before a 2009 Trek Top Fuel 9.9 was assembled and delivered recently. Armstrong told BikeRadar in April that he spends 50 percent of his saddle time in the dirt, and preferred lightweight hardtails.
"Well, he needed a new bike and I was tasked with making that happen," said Trek's racing liaison Ben Coates on his 'Up The Road' blog. "A couple of days later a brand new Trek Top Fuel 9.9 showed up at my door; all the parts in boxes, just like the good old days. It isn't every day that you get to build a bike that only 10 or so people have ridden and it isn't every day that you build a bike for Lance, this bike was special!"
According to Coates, who was a race mechanic before ascending to his current position, he took his time building up Lance's new Trek to see what Mister July thought.
"It was really fun and I wanted to make sure it was done right, when it was done I hung it on the scale, turns out it is under 22 pounds with pedals, add a pound to make it race ready (seat pack) and his bike came out well under 23 pounds ready to tackle the 100 mile torture-fest that is Leadville!"
Coates admitted he was a bit nervous delivering the Top Fuel 9.9 to Armstrong.
"Everyone always has expectation when they get something new, I did not know what Lance's were," he said. "When I showed up and put his old bike on the scale and then his new one the tension broke. His new bike is two pounds lighter then the bike he was planing on racing. Some of that has to do with spec but a lot of it is just the frame weight.
"He wasn't sure he wanted to change bikes so close to the race but when he saw the weight he decided that he would give it a try. One ride later and I get an email that he loves it and he will be racing it in Leadville..."
On Sunday, Trek-VW Factory racer Chris Eatough won his fifth consecutive 24-hour solo national championship on a 2009 Trek Top Fuel 9.9 SL in Wausau, Wisconsin, so Armstrong has some incentive within Trek circles to bring home the bacon Saturday, the same day the Beijing Olympic men's road race is held.
Time, and circumstance, will tell if Armstrong and his Trek Top Fuel 9.9 can unseat Wiens and take the top podium spot August 9, a spot all too familiar to the Texan with the yellow wristband and astronaut haircut.