It’s been a long time, almost ten years. Maybe you remember; I did a story on you in July 2001 for TEXAS MONTHLY. We rode around Austin together and shared a few beers at the Hula Hut not long before you won your third Tour de France. Since then, of course, you’ve won four more and gone from well-known cyclist to global superstar. It’s impossible to overstate how big you are. This year Forbes called you the most influential athlete in America. You hang with Bono and share the stage with guys like Bill Clinton. Your cancer foundation has raised$350 million. You have 2.6 million followers on Twitter. You’re so inspirational that when some of your fans—especially cancer survivors—meet you, they weep. Here in Texas you’ve even talked about running for governor. You’re everywhere, from website ads (“Tired of being tired?”) to billboards, such as the one near my house on which you’re riding a bike while wearing a pair of Oakley sunglasses (“Undeniable”), looking down at the rest of us as we chug along. You are a god.
It’s also impossible to overstate how much trouble you’re in. Federal agents, apparently convinced that you’ve used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), are hot on your trail. These sorts of accusations have haunted you since you won your first Tour de France, but they got a