The night before I leave Austin, Armstrong invites me to a party for the LiveStrong staff. The loft offices have a utopian feel with an open-office plan inspired by New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg's digs. Tonight, there's a performance by Lance's musician friend Charlie Mars in the foundation's lunchroom, a space the size of a nightclub.
The foundation is populated with shiny, pretty, good people who reflect the new Lance, but the artwork suggests the old, angry Lance. When you enter the place, there's a giant Shepard Fairey canvas of a teenage guerrilla fighter. It is from Armstrong's extensive collection, but seems an odd choice for a cancer foundation – so odd that it was moved to a slightly less prominent spot after some staffers complained that it was too disturbing to see every morning. Amid the desks, there's another non-feel-good piece by Morgan Herrin of a slain woman with arrows in her body lying across a globe.
Armstrong stands to the side of the stage and sways Max's stroller to the beat of Mars's music. "I love the Herrin piece because I know how much pain and work goes into each one of them," says Armstrong. "I can relate. I've got another Herrin at home of a woman's face covered by an octopus." The man previously known for weighing his food helps himself to some catered barbecue and a beer. "I am so damn hungry," he says apologetically. Lance points at two towheaded girls. "Those are my daughters, Isabelle and Grace," he says with a wry smile. "They're currently not speaking to me right now. Their teenage years are going to be great."
He says hello to longtime friend Mark McKinnon, a Texas-based political consultant. There was that talk, pre-comeback, of a run for office – "Lance's approval ratings are the highest of anyone in Texas," says McKinnon – but now Armstrong says, "I think of it less and less." With his kids, friends, and charity surrounding him, there's a glow to Armstrong not present when he talks about the bike. I ask him why he would give all this up to ride the hellish ascents of France one more time with guys a decade younger. "I think the two lives are complementary," says Armstrong, who has said that 2011 will be his last racing year. "At least for a little while. I think I love the pain and suffering of riding, and I know it won't be much longer."
Mars finishes the set, and Lance heads for the door, Max on his chest. The girls have a sleepover tonight, and Alberto Contador, ice vests, and mountain stages seem far away. But midway through the slumber party there will be a buzz at his door. It's the cycling police coming for a random blood and urine test. It will come up negative. Some will believe. Some will not. And so it goes.