By Caren Bohan
CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) – President George W. Bush, an
avid mountain biker, got a chance to test his mettle against
cycling superstar Lance Armstrong on Saturday.
The seven-time Tour de France champion joined the president
for a two-hour, 17-mile trek through the canyons and
river-crossings of Bush’s 1,600-acre Texas ranch.
Armstrong, a fellow Texan and Bush friend who nonetheless
disagrees with the president on the Iraq war, called it a
“dream scenario” to cycle with the president.
While many Americans wonder what attracts Bush to the
Prairie Chapel ranch, where is he spending the month of August,
Armstrong said he thought the biking opportunities were a big
“He rides his mountain bike fanatically,” Armstrong said in
a recent interview with ABC’s This Week. “It might be the
mountain bike trails he has there.”
Armstrong, 33, called Bush “one competitive dude,” but said
in the ABC interview he had no doubt he could outpace Bush,
even though trails can be challenging for road cyclists
unaccustomed to rough, rocky terrain.
“He’s a good rider,” Bush was said to have remarked about
Armstrong after the ride, which featured only one 10-minute
break to admire a waterfall on the property.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Armstrong was
careful to respect “the first rule of biking,” a hint that he
did not overtake the president.
Duffy said he did not know whether Bush discussed politics
with Armstrong, who has spoken out against the war in Iraq.
Armstrong has said he believes the money could be better spent
on other things, such as fighting cancer.
Armstrong, a cancer survivor who at one time was given a
less than 50-50 chance of beating the disease, sits on the
president’s panel on cancer research and heads a nonprofit
Armstrong and the Secret Service agents and staff members
who rode with Bush were presented T-shirts that said “Tour de
Crawford” and “Peloton One” — a reference to the French word
for group — as well as a pair of riding socks with the
Bush, 59, took up mountain biking after a knee injury
forced him to give up jogging a couple of years ago. But he has
taken a few well-publicized spills, including one in Scotland
last month when he collided with a police officer.
The president was described by his doctors in his annual
physical as being in “superior” condition for a man his age.
He takes pride in his six-day-a-week workout regimen and
last week he showcased the statistics on his heart rate monitor
for a group of reporters who rode with him. The monitor showed
he burned 1,493 calories in a two-hour ride, also 17 miles.
Bush says exercise helps sharpen his thinking.
But some of his critics view his exercise obsession as an
indulgence that takes time away from other priorities.
Among them is Cindy Sheehan, the Vacaville, California,
mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, who until late last week
was camped out down the road from Bush’s ranch seeking a
meeting with him to discuss her opposition to the war.
Sheehan, who left her vigil on Thursday to tend to her sick
mother, has said she believes Bush should take fewer bike rides
to have more time to focus on the “the nation’s work.”