I rode with Oprah for her show. We had a race and I beat her at the line, but I think she let me win.
Besides Sheryl, who are your favorite musicians?
Ben Harper, Bruce Springsteen, Grant Lee Phillips. I am a big fan of U2, and Bono, for everything that he does away from music.
Will Smith played a great Ali. Who would you like to play you in a movie about your life?
I've had the chance to get to know Matt Damon. He is a fan of cycling and has a connection to cancer. He has even expressed an interest in the role. I think he could train to look like a cyclist.
Over the years you've kept the same key players on your team. Has loyalty contributed to your victories and is it more important the more successful you are?
Loyalty is very important to me. Our team has been built around it. You take a guy like George [Hincapie], he has been with me forever. Around each contract negotiation, George has offers to go elsewhere but remains with our team. I don't think it's more important if you are more successful. When I am off the bike, loyalty will still be a very important trait to me....
The saying goes: If it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger. Is it fair to say that cancer made you faster?
It changed me physically, and made me a different type of racer. Prior to cancer I had a much bigger upper body and broader shoulders. The treatment caused me to lose muscle, making me lighter, so I became a better climber. But it also changed me psychologically, emotionally, and professionally. It made me focus on every aspect of cycling and allowed me to build a great team.
Did you have moments where you thought you might not be able to beat cancer?
Absolutely. There were periods where I had questions, and a lot of those times came after I finished therapy, on December 13, 1996. The next months were excruciating. I wondered if this bastard was going to come back at me.
What advice would you give someone who has never faced his own mortality the way you have?
I would suggest going to volunteer at a hospital or a hospice and get a slice of perspective.
What about someone who has recently been diagnosed with something terminal?
Get informed. Use your resources and don't be afraid to seek the best treatment you can.
Soon you'll have a lot more time to travel. Are there any dream trips you'd like to take?
I have been to Australia and would love to get back there, and also see New Zealand. I would like to get back to Hawaii as well, and work on my surfing.
You've been known to go mountain biking in your downtime. Where are your favorite places to ride?
Mountain biking is a great workout and one that I look forward to as I move into my second life. I would say Santa Cruz is the best riding I have done.
What about motorized two-wheelers?
I have a Yamaha out at the ranch in Texas for riding on the trails. I just sold my Harley-Davidson because I wasn't riding it very much.
Is this really the end? Would you consider unretiring?
Come the end of the Tour, that's it for me. The only place you will see me is sprinting for signs on rides in the Texas Hill Country.