STATELINE - Hundreds of media members and fans swarmed the seven-time Tour de France cycling champion who turned the American Century Championship into a philanthropic venture. Lance Armstrong's $50 million foundation that takes his own name is the primary beneficiary this year.
"Lance, Lance, Lance," people carrying books, guides and hats chanted Thursday, as he walked a gauntlet between the driving range to the first hole. Men were seen jumping over toddlers. Those with long arms won out on getting the coveted autographs.
Donna Boroff of Reno, a cyclist herself, removed the license plate off her Ford F150 truck and cleaned it up with the hopes of getting an autograph on it.
"He's an amazing athlete. I just admire what he's gone through, and what he's done," she said. "And it seems like from his career, he's become a generous person."
A Sacramento breast cancer survivor yelled, "Lance, you've got a survivor here," in hopes of obtaining an autograph.
Armstrong fought testicular cancer and formed the foundation dedicated to funding research.
Earlier in a press conference, he warned people to stand back because of how infrequently he plays golf.
Even basketball great Charles Barkley noticed his crowd thinning to contribute to the mob following Armstrong.
"Hey, he's in phenomenal shape, but he just rides a bike," Barkley quipped.
"You're cuter," a Barkley fan responded.
Before he encountered golf fans and after hosting the ESPY awards for sports stars the night before, Armstrong told the Tahoe Daily Tribune in a packed press conference that his nostalgia and melancholy of retiring from the Tour de France was limited to his perspective as a fan.
"Well, I knew that they would go on without me. Honestly, I don't miss being there as an athlete. But I'm still a fan. I tune in daily. I love the event. I love the sport," said Armstrong, who took up his sport spending hours cruising by the blue bonnets of Texas. "Look I'm sitting here today, and we still have an American in yellow, and I think that's huge for cycling. And I hope that the public, the sporting public and the cycling public really understands that, how significant that is; that we are some of the best in the world at this sport that's really not our sport."
Armstrong added he was age 35 and ready to move on and do other things in life. He pointed to his foundation as "my new Tour de France."
"If we affect change there, that will be a lot bigger than one Tour or seven tours," he said.