Armstrong rocks, and this tour was quite possibly the most dominant performance I’ve seen since I started following cycling. Every move was met, he passed out stage wins like they were Smarties and his domestiques were trick-r-treating, and he completely crushed the final time trial.
OH AND HE PASSED JAN IN STAGE ONE!
Yeah, that got me kind of pumped up, and set the tone for what’s been called by some the “Tour de Lance” (Yeah, just a few have used it. But it’s good, and it’s appropriate, and there are worse things in the world).
Watching the mountain stages – His team may have dropped off earlier this year than the last few, but Discovery was exceptionally bold with getting guys in breaks, and Armstrong wasn’t above using Basso and Ullrich to set tempo for him in the climbs.
Hincapie winning the Sunday mountain stage was probably the highlight of the cycling year for me (Well, either that or Cipo retiring after the Giro Prologue in a pink skinsuit). Who’da thunk it? Toughest stage of the tour in years, and the man built for Paris-Roubaix knocks it off. Maybe Johan will take a year off from the tour and build next year’s team around George for the Classics and the Vuelta.
I’ve mentioned before that I dislike time trials. I still do, in theory. I can go sit on Route 184 any given Saturday and watch people in lycra stream by one by one. Yeah, race against the clock, race against your personal best. But, much like I have no interest in watching someone play tennis against a backboard, I like racing. This year? Maybe it was the pass that did it, but somehow the time trials were palateable. And f’n Zabriskie kills me – I want to fall in love, but after Tyler, I’m wounded. So I’m glad he didn’t stick it out to Paris.
Speaking of Zabriskie – is it just me, or is half the untapped talent in the peleton American? Leipheimer, Julich, Zabriskie, the Flying Mennonite – good stuff. The Italians and the Eastern Europeans are bringing “A” riders, but America seems to be following through on the groundwork set by LeMond at last. Yes, they said that Hampsten was going to do the same after Greg, but he’s one guy.
I’d also like to give props to OLN – this year was by far their best job covering the Tour. Last year was ugly, since they were trying to make a transition from two bit to four bit operation. This year, though, they were firing on all cylinders. Think there’s some competition to keep the contract out of the Disco’s hands? Random thoughts on OLN:
1) I don’t mean to sound sexist, but Al Trautwig would be a whole lot less annoying if he were a woman. He asked many of the same questions this year as he did last year. I understand the part he is supposed to play in the OLN quad, but he seems to have a complete and total lack of understanding of history, geography, culture, etc. But it was after he made some comment about a monastery or something that I groaned, and my wife made the point that he’d be not so bad as a woman.
2) Continuing to tread on probably the wrong side of the fine line of tact, is Kristen Gum, um, augmented this year? (Again, I probably wouldn’t point this out if my wife had found it offensive to ask)
3) More positively – The expanded coverage in the evenings had absolutely great bits about the local color. It was worth sitting through Al’s commentary to get to Gum and the dude with the glasses’ bits. Wish I’d taped more of that.
4) Chris Charmichael was actually useful this year.
I’ll finish out The Good by completely neglecting to make any predictions about next year, other than to say that Lance Armstrong won’t win.
I’m glad you asked – here’s what I wrote to a friend when he asked if cycling was going to go the way of the dodo apres Lance:
“I say no –
“1. Americans are making an impact on pro cycling for the first time,
pretty much ever. 3 Americans in the top 10, five in the top 20, and
not just in the Tour. Always more fun to watch when there’s a dog in
the hunt. Plus, it gives ESPN and the nightly news people to put on
the Sports highlights without having to resort to using a translator
“2. The wonderful folks at, for instance, Continental Airlines,
CNN/BBC, and your local Teleco. It’s a global world, folks. Paris is
just as quick a trip for folks on the East Coast as is San Francisco.
With increasing immigration and business ties around the world, be
prepared to spend more time talking about football (the kind played by
atheletes, not chemically enhanced freaks of nature), cycling, track –
things that have been anathema to Americans for years. But be prepared
for Nascar to go global.
“3. Minor Leagues – USA Cycling registered more new racers this year
than in a while. The folks who grew up watching Greg Lemond just sat
with their kids watching Lance Armstrong for the last seven years. And
bike training can be time-shifted to meet a parent’s schedule, unlike
little-league practice or Pop Warner football.
“4. Health Nazis. Spurloch and his McDonald’s bit are just the tip of
the iceberg. If we’re going to be forced to lose weight, we may as
well beat the snot out of our neighbors while we do it.
“5. Media – Cycling’s pretty darn telegenic – mountains, lots of
colors, crashes. People tune in to suffering, and cycling’s got that
“6. Convergence – The ultimate participatory sport. Love baseball?
Think you’ll be able to actually, say, take batting practice in
Fenway? Doubtful. Football? $100/seat and it’s approaching a grand to
take a family to a game. But cycling takes place on public roads
worldwide. I can throw the bike in the back of the wagon, and in 90
minutes be riding the same roads the top American pros raced in the
Tour de Connecticut. $1000 and I can grab Jake, the bikes, and a tent
and go do the dirty hippie bike tourist thing for a week across the
Loire on the same roads we saw raced this July. Want to know how hard
Armstrong had to work going up the Pla d’Adet? I can get you the map,
and tell you how to get to the bottom of the climb.
“Is interest going to fall off? Yes, kind of like interest in the NBA
fell off after Jordan left, and – wait, do they still play hockey?”
(This is really a pretty good place to stop. If you read the rest, know it was written after I was out of the funk and should be looked at as almost completely tongue-in-cheek. Satire, even)
(or where Bill lets his inner cynic loose)
A buddy of mine wrote quite possibly the most cynical thing I’ve read about Armstrong (Strong language covered): It’s like no accomplishment can ever be good enough now. I’m all, “Yeah, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, but hey, I shook it off and did my thing. That’s pretty good, right?” And the world is like, “Unless you set a world f*g record with f*g brain cancer, you suck.”
While I don’t completely buy it (and while Jeff has been known to fire for effect), I think Armstrong has been lending a little bit of staying power to the funk I was in while being “busy”. I feel especially betrayed because he’s so close in age to me. Gen X has a lot going for it, but no matter what we do in the future (take the internet public, fix social security, fix the housing bubble, fix/dismantle and rebuild the UN, etc), the boomers will all be able to dismantle it by saying “Yeah, but you’re all a bunch of slackers. Look at that Lance Armstrong guy – he had freakin’ cancer and won the Tour de France more times than anyone before he was 35. What have you done?”
I was in an unreasonable funk all weekend. Not enough to spoil the weekend – it goes down as one of the best in a long while – but enough to make me not a great conversationalist. Two lovely kids, a decent job, a wife I love, passable house in the ‘burbs – yet somehow I don’t measure up to the potential that a childhood of 70’s self-actualization pap like “Free to be You and Me” and a peer who has the
stuff of legend tell me I should.
Plus, I’m still about 5 lbs above “healthy” on the BMI. So not only am I a failure, I’m a fatass too.
I’m pretty much over the weekend’s funk – I think it would somehow be worse if, like Jordan, Armstrong comes out of retirement. It ended up working out well for Michael the first time, but it was excruciating to watch until he had a ring in the bag. And the second time Jordan came back – well, the less said about that, the better. And I’m happy for Armstrong, and realize that he and i are apples and oranges.
(Somehow staring at 33 is much tougher for me than staring at 30 was – there’s the whole Jesus thing associated with 33, plus now Lance)
(Geeze, I’m vain)