Jul 202004
 
Authors: Evan Truesdale

I admit that I feel like a jerk to some extent. Yes, it’s nice

to see Lance Armstrong coming back strong for what looks to be

inevitable sixth-consecutive victory – I just don’t think he

deserves it.

Before you fire up the standard reply that most Americans give

about him, let me say this: I agree with you.

I know in full detail about his fight with cancer when the odds

were so against him that the doctors never even told him how bad

off he was until after he was on the path to recovery.

I know about his children, his wife and his divorce and his

now-public relationship with Sheryl Crow. I read his biography.

Twice.

I’ve also read “The Lance Armstrong Performance Program,” which

was coauthored by his coach Chris Carmichael. I’ve read every

incarnation of Joe Friel’s “Bible” books along with most trade

magazines since I was so young I hadn’t even started to get hair on

my face.

I just don’t think that Lance deserves it. He earned it, that I

don’t doubt. Despite years of drug allegations by the French and at

times the Union Cyclists International – the two groups that could

never accept an American as not just a competitor, but a dominator

of Le Tour – he has done it drug-free.

I have always considered myself a traditionalist. I yearn for

the days of Eddy Merckx, aka the Cannibal, who would simply

demolish the field not just at Le Tour, but also at every race of

the entire season. That’s how he got his nickname; he aggressively

went after all the wins. More recently, Miguel Indurain also won

five during the late ’80s and early ’90. These are true

champions.

What makes Merckx and Indurain true champions is that they raced

for an entire season. Lance races for an entire two months.

To further compare Merckx and Lance is the total number of days

spent wearing the Yellow Jersey. When Lance starts out on L’Alp

D’Huez, it will be his 61st day wearing the prized jersey. Merckx

wore it 111 days during his career. Note though that Lance has now

surpassed Indurain for days spent in yellow by one.

Lance’s race program has become standardized over the past

several years: first, a short stage series usually about one week

long as a tune-up for Le Tour mid-June, then he races Le Tour.

After that Lance heads back to race a single U.S. classic and then

disappears from most races until the Olympics later this year.

When I’m watching the Olympics, I’ll be chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A”

as loud as anyone else and wishing all the best for Lance to

improve upon his Bronze medal from four years ago.

It’s just that Lance has never proven himself in my eyes by

spending his winters in smoky indoor tracks and competing in small

races where he would be paid enormous sums simply for arriving.

Instead, he spends his time giving speeches and making Subaru

commercials.

I don’t have anything but thanks to offer him for his charity

work and for making cycling more viable in the American public than

anyone since Greg LeMond.

I don’t have to like the fact that Lance will, barring a crash

on today’s individual uphill time trial on L’Alp D Huez, probably

have secured his victory.

However, he will have won it fair and square. As six years of

random and scheduled urine and blood tests have shown, as well as

six years of room searches and at times trash-can searches, Lance

and U.S. Postal-Berry Floor team are winning this tour without help

from “the sauce.” But I still believe that blood doping exists in

professional and possibly amateur racing.

Great riders like Iban Basso have been brought to tears already

this year and the race is only two-thirds over, Tyler Hamilton has

bowed out and Ullrich lags by more than six and a half minutes.

Congratulations Lance, you are about to set a new record, six in

a row. I know that you can beat me any day of the week, and even at

my peak of fitness I would never even dare to pose a challenge to

you to even a simple sprint for the town line just for fun. I know

that if I even did win it was because you let me win, like you let

Basso win on stage 16, only to nip him on the line the very next

day and again on Tuesday.

I still don’t think that Lance deserves to set the record, but

he has earned it. He’s earned it with every day he spent in the

saddle on six-hour training rides since he came back from cancer. I

don’t have to like it, but I am going to respect it.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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