Actor Ben Foster says that preparing for the role of Lance Armstrong in a forthcoming movie has given him new-found respect for cyclists and, perhaps surprisingly, for the disgraced rider himself.
He will star as Armstrong in a forthcoming movie based on David Walsh’s book Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong, directed by Stephen Frears.
Foster told entertainment website IGN that Armstrong was “one of the greatest athletes that's ever lived”, not just for his physical ability but for his “focus”.
Foster says he spent time among cyclists and on the bike in preparation for the role. He has certainly managed to look the part. A publicity still of Foster released last year has cropped up a couple of times mistakenly used in stories about Armstrong.
Of pro cyclists, Foster said: “Those guys suffer in a very specific way. It was really interesting to spend time in that community. I had no idea what it took to push the body that way.
“It's about being eight hours in the saddle. That's a lonely, ritualized -- it's in circles. You're making circles. You're pushing past hunger. You're pushing past clarity of thought. It's a wild way to suffer. Your feet aren't going anywhere. You're going in circles up these impossible mountains.”
As for Armstrong himself, Foster seems to have developed an admiration for the rider who was stripped of seven Tour de France titles after the full extent of his and his team’s doping was uncovered.
He said: “In terms of his athletic ability, there aren't many like him. That's a combination of focus. It's as much will as being a physical body. He's one of the greatest athletes that's ever lived.”
The as-yet-untitled movie will co-star Chris O’Dowd as journalist David Walsh whose dogged pursuit of Armstrong contributed to his downfall.
But despite the revelations about doping, Foster thinks Armstrong was still something special. He said: “He came up in a time of doping, and it's my opinion, if you look at the statistics, you have to go down 17 or 18 guys for those seven years retroactively, at least, to find a clean rider.
“So it wasn't EPO [Erythropoietin] that made Lance the greatest cyclist. It was something far bigger. How he handled that ability, how he handled his will, that story's not over yet.”
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.