I can’t quite explain my growing disdain for Lance Armstrong.
There was a time, not long ago, that I openly cheered for him. I loved watching him ride up the hill, leaving Jan Ullrich, Joseba Beloki, Ivan Basso, and so many others behind, completely demoralized and defeated. I thought that when he stole a stage victory from Andreas Kloden* in the 2004 Tour was one of the most spectacular victories in cycling history. It was completely unexpected, fueled by raw emotion and power. It was the essence of the killer instinct that has come to define Lance Armstrong.
What has changed?
I don’t know, exactly. Perhaps it was his socially dysfunctional tailspin into B-list celebrity embarrassment after vowing to spend time with his kids. Maybe it was the perception that he let the pursuit of that celebrity destroy what appeared—from an outsiders point of view—to be a perfectly happy family. But then, I don’t know that story, except that it, like everything else in Lance’s life was a carefully crafted public relations campaign. Like the dope flowing through his body, his human interactions and relationships seem entirely synthetic. Maybe it was that as more time passed and more people close to him were willing to speak out against The Boss, detailing his fascist leadership style, his remarkable demand for unblinking loyalty, and his rampant doping practices finally started to chip away at an image that I wanted to be real and to represent the man, but that defied reality. Or, perhaps it was simply that the sheen of his comeback eroded after seven years of Tour de France monotony.
*I wonder if that day ever comes up, now that the two are teammates?
Whatever the reason, I am finding it very hard to root for Lance Armstrong.
Yes, he’s a jerk. A megalomaniac. And probably a cheater.
But how has any of that effected me?
It hasn’t. Not directly. And it won’t. If his world collapses in on top of him, if he goes to jail, is shamed into exile, or simply lives on with no more than a cloud of suspicion hanging over his head, my life won’t change. I’ll still ride my bike. I’ll still find ways to challenge myself in the mountains, and on singletrack. And who knows, maybe if Lance Armstrong continues to snowball amateur mountain bike races, I’ll have a chance to say something snarky and inappropriate to his face—like I do on Twitter. (Follow me on Twitter)
While watching his career end on the climb to Avoriaz on Sunday, and listening to the British commentators lamenting the demise of a great champion—although doing so with much less sycophantry than Phil and Paul—I had one question come to mind:
Lance has yet to respond. But when he does, I will be booking a tour…
Now, I realize that I risk getting blocked. Like The Junkie did. Although I think that after our interview, we are pretty tight. Am I right @lancearmstrong, or I am right? [fistbump] Lance is apparently rather thin skinned—as evidence by all the blood he is shedding on the French roads this year—when it comes to 140-character heckling. Which, for a guy that is heralded as one of the toughest competitors in cycling history, is a rather silly way to behave. Not that having him block me on Twitter is something I am aspiring to. After all, who can deny the inherent value and insiders-only feel to tweets like this:
What is up with that?
In fact, by all accounts, it would appear that the 2010 Tour de France has been a complete sufferfest for Lance and his RadioShack crew—on and off the bike. Just look at the beds at the EuroSport-less “hotel”:
It’s a wonder he, or any of his teammates can ride at all. Even “Master Tactician”—as Phil Liggett insists he be called—Johan Bruyneel is aghast at how difficult the Tour de France is:
It is entirely possible that I am mistaken, as I have never traveled in France, but low-end lodging would seem a rather expected inconvenience when the rolling pharmaceutical billboard known as Le Tour assaults a sleepy country town with a population of 400. But, and this is the odd part, Johan seems utterly surprised. Johan, is this your first rodeo? And frankly, after riding for days and weeks, a bed—any bed—would feel quite fantastically wonderful each and every night. Especially after being worked over by a professional masseuse while listening to one of my favorite bands.
Life is rought for the 7-time tour winner. But all the hard work has paid off. Today, after escaping into a breakaway, Lance Armstrong silenced his critics and reestablished his cycling dominance with an inspiring stage win—scorching the very descent that ended Joseba Beloki’s career, and hinted at his own cyclocross and mountain bike skills. (It was Lance that won today right? I mean, who else in a RadioShack kit would it have been?)
He had even predicted the result before the race, declaring that he’d “be fast 2day” despite having the “hottest night*” he’s had in a while.
*I had no idea Matthew McConaughey was traveling with RadioShack.
After the race he reminded all 2.5 million of his Twitter followers of Beloki’s incredible and devastating crash.
I can only hope that Joseba Beloki is not among those following him on Twitter. For while Lance has just “bad memories” from that day, Beloki has pins and scars and probably a host of “if-onlys” flowing through his mind each and every day. Or, in other words: