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Armstrong began his sporting career as a triathlete, competing in adult competitions from the age of 14, he even appeared on the cover of Triathlete Magazine at age 17. It soon became clear that his greatest talent was as a bicycle racer. At 17, he received an invitation to train with the Junior National Cycling Team. Plano Independent School District´s school board said that the 42 day leave to train, taken during the second semester of his senior year, would bar him from graduating. Armstrong withdrew from Plano East Senior High School with his mother´s blessing and went to train with the team. He graduated from Bending Oaks Private Academy in Dallas the following spring. Armstrong still harbors resentment toward Plano because of this and prefers his adopted home of Austin, Texas.
After competing as a cycling amateur, winning the US amateur championship in 1991 and finishing 14th in the 1992 Olympics road race, Armstrong turned professional in 1992. He finished last in his first professional cycle race, the Clasica San Sebastian. However, the following year he scored his first major victory as he rode solo to win the World Cycling Championship in Oslo, Norway. His victory was so impressive that he was invited to an audience with the King of Norway which he initially turned down after finding his mother was not included in the invitation. Minutes later, the King invited both.
His success continued with Team Motorola, with whom he won stages in the 1993 and 1995 Tours de France and several classic one-day events. Also in 1995, he won the premier U.S. cycling event, the Tour DuPont, after placing second in 1994. He won the Tour DuPont again in 1996 and was ranked the number one cyclist in the world. Later in 1996, however, he abandoned the Tour de France and had a disappointing Olympic Games. These early disappointments spurred him on to the great things he has achieved post-cancer, and he admits that if he had given in on the devilishly difficult Clasica San Sebastian in which he had previously finished last, he could have retired from the sport.
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