TEXAS hometown celebrates Lance Armstrong's third Tour de France victory

Sunday, August 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ Texans welcomed home three-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong on Saturday with music and tributes in a celebration dubbed ``Vive Lance! Austin's Hometown Hero.''

Six days after Armstrong won cyclings premier race, the city remained festive as thousands of yellow-clad Armstrong fans gathered for a party. Many rode their bicycles.

``We're truly touched by your sincerity and your following. It touches our soul that people are here and they care about us,'' Armstrong, flanked by his wife, Kristin, said after being introduced with video highlights of his victory and a fireworks show.

He drew laughter when he joked that he worried no one would show up. While away from Austin, Armstrong said, he missed the people _ and the chips and salsa.

``It's nice to be back in America, and it's nice to be back in Texas,'' he said,

Gov. Rick Perry declared the day Lance Armstrong Day.

``Let's get him ready to win number four and number five, and then number six,'' Perry told the cheering crowd.

Armstrong was treated in 1996 for testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs. He returned to competition and won the first of three consecutive Tour titles in 1999. He has used his celebrity to help raise money for cancer research and survivors.

Armstrong and his family flew into Texas aboard Air Force One with President Bush Saturday afternoon after a visit to the White House on Friday.

``We're good friends, and he's a regular guy to me,'' Armstrong said.