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
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.
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
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
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
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.